The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.
A Dying Noteby Ann Parker brings to life San Francisco during the late 1800s. As a co-owner of the Silver Queen Saloon the main character, Inez Stannert, had a stake in an upscale brothel. This sixth book of the series has a change of venue from Leadville Colorado to San Francisco California. Besides the change of setting there is a change of professions for Inez and her ward, Antonia Gizzi.
Parker noted she changed the setting because “I live in the Bay area. This is a new setting for me because the past five books were placed in Leadville Colorado. Also, it was a hot bed for labor activity with the Waterfront and printer organizations. This allowed me to write in about a possible musicians’ labor union. I think at some level I was going to have her leave, as Inez says that Leadville was just a stop along the way and that she and her ward were supposed to go to San Francisco.”
Inez is content to settle into her new life until the body of a musician washes ashore upon the banks of San Francisco’s Mission Creek Bay. She recognizes the victim, someone who came to her for piano lessons. As Inez begins her investigation, she is confronted by her shady past in the form of Leadville silver baron Harry Gallagher. He gives her one-week to discover the murderer, or he will expose her past associations and threatens to ruin her socially/financially. Time grows short as Inez uncovers long-hidden secrets and unsettled scores that affect lives and reputations.
Inez is a strong woman protagonist. “I spoke with and learned from Women Writing The West who influenced me to set my story in the historical West. Inezis a woman with a mysterious past, a complicated present, and an uncertain future. I based her name on my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. My family actually thought she would have got a kick out of it. What the fictional and real women had in common is a will of iron, strong women. They powered through from their difficulties. She was a woman of her times. Women who came to the West made a life for themselves. They tended to be pretty strong willed emotionally, spiritually, and physically.”
Realizing the death might have something to do with union organizers, Inez is not content to sit back and do nothing. The victim, Jamie Monroe, wanted to establish unions, including one geared for musicians. He was also working to secure enough money to marry Carmella Donato, the daughter of Nick Donato. He is the partner of Inez, as well as a well-respected businessman, and an accomplished musician who tries to find employment for musicians who frequent his establishment.
Throughout the story readers get tidbits of information about San Francisco. They will visit the eloquent Palace Hotel, and the dangerous areas of the Barbary Coast and Chinatown.
Besides a good mystery, information about places, clothing, businesses, transportation, and education makes the story interesting.