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Bookends: Kidnapping and Gold Fever in the Klondike December 29, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Kidnapping and Gold Fever in the Klondike

By Dan Davidson

Gold Mountain

May 22, 2013

– 692 words –

 

Gold Mountain: A Klondike Mystery

By Vicki Delany

Dundurn

317 pages

$17.99

 

People have been looking for the “motherlode” or the mountain of gold for most of the history of gold mining in the Klondike. They usually end up settling for high-grade pay dirt or a rich quartz seam, but the legends continue. The notion of an Arctic (or Antarctic) valley kept in perpetual summer by hot springs and sheltered from the world by mountains is a legend regurgitated in a lot of pulp fiction as well.

Delany has combined the two things in this, the third of the Fiona MacGillivray Klondike adventures. Gold Digger and Gold Fever introduced us to Fiona; her teenage son, Angus; and the supporting cast of her Klondike setting, including miners, dancehall girls, small time entrepreneurs, prostitutes and members of the Mounties.

She is half-owner and the business mind behind the Savoy Salon and Dance Hall, which she runs along with Ray Walker. She has a couple of potential beaus in town, a journalist named Graham Donohue and Corporal Sterling of the North-West Mounted Police, while another member of the NWMP keeps proposing to her.

In the first two books we learned a bit about Fiona’s background, about how a peasant girl from the Isle of Skye managed to acquire an upper class accent and manners, and how her parents were murdered by the son of the manor lord. In this book we learn of her life with the Travellers (Irish Gypsies, not to be confused with the Romani people) and how she learned the skills that would enable her to survive when she finally left them years later.

We also get a look at her swift departure from Toronto in 1897, the result of her career as a temptress and high-class thief. Having heard of the Gold Rush she had thought to establish herself in a legitimate theatrical business in Skagway, but a brief brush with Jefferson (Soapy) Smith persuaded her to move on, and that’s when she teamed up with Ray.

In Dawson City, she has fulfilled her dream. The Savoy is a success in the summer of 1898 and, while she is astute enough to know the rush won’t last forever, she expects to come out the other end well enough off to start up again somewhere else without having to resort to crime.

Trouble has followed her from Skagway, however, in the person of Paul Sheridan, one of Soapy’s lieutenants. He has two obsessions: the legend of Gold Mountain and Fiona. He is determined to combine them, and when she won’t cooperate, he abducts her and sets off in search of his pipe dream, following a crude map that he somehow came into possession of. He tells several different stories about this map, so we rather imagine foul play was involved.

Fiona’s first person voice is the one that tells us most of the present time story and all of the flashbacks, of course. Most of the other point of view belongs to Angus, though other people do slip into the third person narrative portions of the book.

Once Fiona has been taken we follow two narrative threads, one being Sheridan’s mad quest into the wilderness and the other bring the pursuit by Angus, Sterling and several others, who take up the trail about a day later. Both stories are interesting, and Fiona’s flashbacks are triggered by events along the way that make her think back to her years as a young girl and teenager in Scotland and England.

Delany has ventured into other territory as well, writing several standalone novels and another series about Constable Molly Smith (five books and counting), set in present day British Columbia. According to the pre-order notices on Amazon.ca, there will be a fourth Klondike mystery, Gold Web, due out before this coming Christmas.

Vicki’s finally going to visit Dawson City in person this June, doing readings and signings in both Whitehorse and Dawson, and I’m looking forward to meeting an author I have both read and interviewed.

 

-30-

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