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Bookends: International intrigue comes to the Klondike October 12, 2015

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Bookends: International intrigue comes to the Klondike

By Dan DavidsonGold Web

January 14, 2015

– 776 words –

 

Gold Web

By Vicki Delany

Dundurn

322 pages

$17.99

1898 was an exceptionally busy year in the Klondike. In fact, it was an exceptionally busy spring and summer, for that has been the time frame for all four of the Klondike Mystery series novels. While Dawson may have been free of any murders at all in real life, Fiona MacGillivray and her immediate circle of associates have had to deal with a dead dancer, an attempt on our heroine’s life and a kidnapping into the bush in search of a mythical motherlode.

This one begins with a bloody murder in the alley behind Fiona’s Savoy Saloon and Dance Hall.

“The last thing he saw in this world was world was my shocked face.”

Why did the murdered man breathe out her name with his next to last breath, and why did he use the last one to say “Culloden”? And in telling the NWMP all that she knew of the man’s last moments, why did she omit that last bit of information?

There are generally three narrative strands in these books. We get Fiona in the first person. Angus, her 12 year old son, gets the third person treatment, as does Corporal Richard Sterling, the man who may one day become her significant other. The interweaving of these points of view means that we very occasionally view the same scene from more than one perspective.

Of Fiona, we know that she was born to a servant family in Scotland, but got a first class education by virtue of being befriended by the local laird’s daughter, gaining a refined English accent in the process. At a young age tragedy befell her family and she was cast upon her own resources, living for a time with a group of gypsies, and leaving them when the potential for harm at the hands of one of the young men became too great.

This continuing development of her backstory comes to us courtesy of events in the present triggering memories of the past.

In this book’s flashback sequences we learn that she spent a number of years as a street beggar under the tutelage of a Fagin-like character who ran a kiddie crime family as well as a brothel. Good looks and refinement would eventually gain her entry to the homes of the well to do, where she was a successful thief, keeping a step ahead of discovery by moving on.

She moved on to Toronto where she and Angus (we have yet to learn of his origin) lived for a time before deciding to try out the Gold Rush in 1897. A short stay in Skagway convinced her that it was no place for her and Angus. Along the way north she formed a business partnership with Ray Walker, and together they founded the Savoy in Dawson.

There are a number of ongoing plot strands that began in the earlier volumes and weave their way through this book. Fiona has a continuing feud with one of the local madams on Paradise Alley, and that leads to an attempt on her life. The arrival of a lady photographer, Ellen Jennings, leads to Angus taking on a second summer job and appears to drive a wedge between Fiona and Sterling, who have been inching closer together during the months they have known each other.

As Sterling works to solve the murder mystery, other plots are swirling around the town. What is one to make of Count Nicky, the Russian, who seems intent of a hair brained scheme to wrest the Yukon from Canada and make of it and Alaska a new Russia, to escape from the tyranny of the Czar? Then there’s a group of warmed over Fenians, still bent on punishing Britain for all it has done to the Irish by somehow causing a revolution in Canada.

So, while there is a murder at the beginning of the book, much of the thriller action is provided by the presence of spies, both foreign and domestic, and agent provocateurs intent on mischief that go far beyond the confines of peaceful Dawson City.

Delany keeps busy producing books at the rate of about one a year. Aside from the four Klondike books, there are six in the Constable Molly Smith series, set in a town modeled after Nelson, BC, three standalone suspense novels, a book for reluctant readers and, most recently an entry, under the pen name of Eva Gates, in the mystery genre known as the “cozy” style, with the title of By Book or By Crook.

-30-

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