A New Life, With New Complications
Allow me to introduce myself: I am Inez Stannert, and I want to thank you for hosting me today. It’s not often I get to step out of the pages of the Silver Rush historical mysteries and explain my circumstances, and how I ended up here, in San Francisco.
When I left Leadville in the autumn of 1880, the silver rush to that mining town in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado was still in full flood. I’ll admit, it was tempting to remain and “mine the miners,” as I was making a good living as part-owner of the Silver Queen Saloon. However, I had many many good reasons to say goodbye to this high-mountain town and proceed west to San Francisco.
For one, in Leadville, I had been embroiled in too many investigations into too many crimes. As a “grass widow,” that is, a recent divorcee, I found my personal life had become rather complicated as well. I was ready to disentangle myself from many who lived there and leave the past behind. Also, shortly before deciding to leave, I became the guardian to a twelve-year-old orphan girl, Antonia Gizzi. Antonia had had a difficult life in Leadville. She needed a firm hand and a stable environment, which I could not supply as a saloon-owner in a silver-mining boomtown. I felt it incumbent upon me to consider relocating for all those reasons and more.
I reasoned that I still had a stake in the saloon, which would continue to provide a generous income, even in my absence. I also had my upbringing and a thorough formal and musical education to fall back on. Never mind that I had been disowned from my wealthy family on the East Coast, I knew that the customs and courtesies I had been raised to embrace would stand me in good stead in the “Paris of the West.” So, it was decided. Antonia and I headed to San Francisco, where I was confident we could take up lives of comparative security and refinement.
It is now early 1882, and although Antonia and I are well settled in San Francisco, it has not been the quiet life I had hoped for. All started well enough. Antonia was enrolled—not entirely happily, I admit—into a local public school to further her education, which had suffered in Leadville. She is doing fairly well, excelling at her numbers and developing a love of reading. However, she needs a close eye, for she is still prone to getting into mischief. As for me, I parlayed my musical and managerial skills into a position in a local music store and eventually became co-owner. I have also found a niche providing financial assistance to local women-run businesses. Some of the women require simple loans, while I form partnerships with others.
However, the criminal doings of others continue to intrude on my and Antonia’s lives, even in this metropolis of the Far West.
The latest example of such stems from a partnership I formed with Moira Krause, who owned a boardinghouse and wanted to expand her business into the abandoned residence adjoining hers. The business end of things went smoothly enough. We made an offer to the gentleman who had inherited the property from his father. The offer was accepted, with a lawyer acting as intermediary. To celebrate the signing of the deed and the success of our joint venture, Moira arranged a little party in which a passageway was to be cut through the common wall between the two buildings.
All went sideways, however, when the wall was breached, and the desiccated remains of a fellow dressed in tattered military wear tumbled out, along with a bag of gold coins. Compounding the horror of those present (for Moira had invited all her boarders to the party as well as the lawyer representing the seller), a glass eye disengaged from the skull and rolled across the floor. Antonia’s eyes widened, and she whispered, “Pirates!” Knowing her penchant for the tale of Treasure Island, I fear her mind is awhirl with devious little thoughts.
Now, Moira wants to know who the poor fellow is, so he can be given a proper burial. Of course, I do too, but I also want to establish, immediately and without doubt, that the gold belongs to Moira and me. I saw the gleam of avarice in the eyes of those in attendance and in the eyes of the police who were summoned to the scene. I am certain some are maneuvering for the treasure.
After gathering evidence and questioning those present, the police insisted the building be vacated and locked. Regrettably, the locksmith, who was present at the derailed celebration, refuses to turn over the only key to the house’s unbreakable locks! I am tempted to throw a brick through a window to gain entry, but cooler heads prevailed.
Still, I am not dissuaded. One way or another, I am determined to shed light on the secret in the wall.
About The Book
The Secret in the Wall: A Novel (Silver Rush Mysteries)
Sometimes you can’t keep your gown out of the gutter…
Inez Stannert has reinvented herself—again. Fleeing the comfort and wealth of her East Coast upbringing, she became a saloon owner and card sharp in the rough silver boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, always favoring the unconventional path—a difficult road for a woman in the late 1800s.
Then the teenaged daughter of a local prostitute is orphaned by her mother’s murder, and Inez steps up to raise the troubled girl as her own. Inez works hard to keep a respectable, loving home for Antonia, carefully crafting their new life in San Francisco. But risk is a seductive friend, difficult to resist. When a skeleton tumbles from the wall of her latest business investment, the police only seem interested in the bag of Civil War-era gold coins that fell out with it. With her trusty derringer tucked in the folds of her gown, Inez uses her street smarts and sheer will to unearth a secret that someone has already killed to keep buried. The more she digs, the muddier and more dangerous things become.
She enlists the help of Walter de Brujin, a local private investigator with whom she shares some history. Though she wants to trust him, she fears that his knowledge of her past, along with her growing attraction to him, may well blow her veneer of respectability to bits—that is, if her dogged pursuit of the truth doesn’t kill her first . . .
About the Author
Ann Parker is a science writer by day and fiction writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush Mysteries series, published by Poisoned Pen Press, a Sourcebooks imprint, is set primarily in 1880s Leadville, Colorado, and more recently in San Francisco, California, the “Paris of the West.” The series was named a Booksellers Favorite by the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association, and Ann is listed in the Colorado Authors’ Hall of Fame. The Secret in the Wall is the eighth and newest entry in the series.
- Website: https://annparker.net/
- Blog: https://silverrushmysteries.blogspot.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnParkerAuthor/
- GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2297.Ann_Parker
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/annparkerauthor/
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