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Bookends: A Lost Mine holds many deadly secrets November 5, 2015

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: A Lost Mine holds many deadly secrets

By Dan Davidson

May 26, 2015

– 898 words –

 

The Lost Mine Murders: A Klondike Era MysteryLost Mine Murders

by Sharon Rowse

Three Cedars Press

293 pages

Kindle Edition

$5.99

Sharon Rowse’s “Klondike Era Mystery” series is just a tad deceptive in terms of its marketing strategy. John Lansdowne Granville and his partner, Sam Scott, actually live in Goldrush era Vancouver, having settled there after their adventures in the Klondike. In the first book, The Silk Train Murders, Granville rescued himself from the down at the heels life he had fallen into after his time in the Yukon when Scott was falsely arrested for murder and nearly hung.

Granville, ne’er do well son of the British aristocracy, transformed himself into a private detective in order to save his former mining partner, and that led the pair into the new partnership which is well established by the time this story occurs.

It’s December 30, 1899, when the pair sit down with Marty Cole, a grimy old miner who spins them the tale of a lost mine in the southern BC wilderness, near a place called Pitt Lake. His claim is that he wants to find the mine and turn it over to a descendant of the man who made the partial map he shows the partners. He promises them a share of the profit from the working mine if they will help him find it.

Granville and Scott are still on the trail of a missing infant, but that trail has gone cold while they wait for more information from the USA, so they decide to take this on while they wait.

It’s not a job that’s supposed to take very long. They decide to take Trent Davis, their young apprentice, with them. It’s a good choice, as it turns out, for while the pair are experienced in the wilderness, Trent actually grew up in the bush, and turns out to be even more of an asset than they would have thought.

Side plots abound. In the first book Granville became acquainted with a young woman named Emily Turner, who turned out to be a fountain of information on that first case. Emily’s family is as Victorian upper middle class as can be, and the only way the pair of them can manage to consult with each other is for them to pretend to be engaged. This is actually a condition which would please them both if it were real, but they spend much of their time dancing around the potential relationship, both pretending it’s all very much business-like.

Emily has, in fact, enrolled in a business school, to learn typewriting, the very sort of school my mother and her sisters would sign up for in the late 1930s, when computers were still a glimmer in Alan Turing’s eye. Her family is not happy with such a working class decision, but Emily plugs away at it, even though she really has to struggle with the machine.

The other thing impeding her progress is that she keeps getting involved in both of Granville’s cases, snooping around the city with her friend, Clara, whose interest is certainly enhanced by the involvement of the young reporter, Tim O’Hearn.

While they pursue their line of investigation, Granville’s party is ambushed in the woods and their client is killed, while Scott is badly injured. They are assisted in nursing him back to health by an Indian (this is 1899 after all) healer of the Katzie (Salish) tribe, and in the process meet an amateur anthropologist who is studying the local customs and is a fount of knowledge.

In due time Granville and his team make their way to Denver, still searching for the missing child. They are ambushed there as well, though they come out of it without being injured at all. In the end they break up a baby farm and find Sarah, the missing child.

Back home, there is still a lot of tidying up to do. Mostly it’s a question of locating Mary Pearson, who seems to be the rightful heir of Cole’s map. Emily’s work on this side of the story is crucial to their success. Wrapping up this mystery and the murders associated with it move the story along to a rather surprising conclusion..

I found this second book an improvement on the first, with more development of the two central characters, Granville and Emily. The narrative follows their points of view, which does end to make the supporting cast seem a bit like set decoration, but that’s not uncommon in this type of mystery.

Rowse has recently released a third volume in this series, The Missing Heir Murders, and seems to be alternating these books with a series set in modern times and featuring a female sleuth named Barbara O’Grady.

I’ve been reading Rowse’s mysteries in e-book form and I do hope the next one is converted a bit better. It’s disconcerting to see a word printed in italics and then find (italics) right after it as if someone messed up the formatting.

In terms of historical accuracy, I haven’t really noticed any howlers in these books, but Rowse’s website (http://www.sharonrowse.com/historical-research/) invites you to check, with a listing of books she consulted in order to create her settings, as well as references about the Salish people and their healing practices.

-30-

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