Friday, August 21, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Leaden Skies by Ann Parker

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Leaden Skies by Ann Parker. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Leaden Skies by Ann Parker

An Inez Stannert Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-577-1 (1590585771)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-577-1 (9781590585771)
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $24.95

Review: Former President Ulysses S. Grant's visit to the mining town of Leadville, Colorado, sets off a cascade of events that start with the murder of a prostitute in the town's "red light" district in Leaden Skies, the third mystery in this series by Ann Parker.

The dead woman is Lizzie, one of the girls who worked for Florence "Frisco Flo" Sweet, a woman striving to provide exclusive and discreet services for discriminating clients willing pay a little more than what her competitors are charging. Lizzie didn't quite fit in, being a little too forward and a little too indiscreet, but it is still a shock when she turns up dead. Meanwhile, Silver Queen Saloon owner Inez Stannert, concerned about the future of her establishment, strikes a private deal with Flo that should benefit both parties. But there are other secrets in this small town and clearly someone is afraid one of them will be exposed. Inez believes she must solve the mystery of Lizzie's death lest her own secret arrangement become public knowledge.

Leaden Skies seems to have all the right ingredients for a rousing mystery yet in the end it seems incomplete, somewhat unsatisfactory. The characters are interesting and well drawn, the sense of time and place outstanding. The murder of Lizzie is well staged and a credible list of suspects presented. The narrative is colorful and entertaining, and exceptionally well written. And yet there isn't a sense of urgency or suspense, of engaging the reader in the investigation as to who murdered Lizzie and why.

There's really quite a lot here to appeal to mystery readers, with its historical background, colorful characters, and well plotted story, but Leaden Skies is ever so slightly disappointing nonetheless.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of Leaden Skies for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): In the summer of 1880, the siren song of a lucky silver find in the mining boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, isn't the only thing that leads folks into temptation. Although possible investment in Leadville's silver mines is a main reason that former president and Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant is now touring this city at the top of the Rockies, others in his retinue and in town are enticed by other visions. Political aspirations fuel the dreams of young John Quincy Adams Wesley and his mother, while itinerant fire insurance mapmaker Cecil Farnesworth struggles against the seductive call of State Street, Leadville's red-light district.

As part owner of the Silver Queen Saloon, Inez Stannert has often observed the ruination that comes from yielding to temptation. Still, that knowledge hasn't stopped Inez from taking Reverend Justice Sands as her lover, in the absence of news of her missing husband. Nor does it stop her from striking a backroom deal with upscale brothel madam Frisco Flo, a deal that Inez gambles will make her financially independent.

But when the body of Lizzie, one of Flo's women, is discovered and Inez learns that Flo has another silent business partner, whose identity she will not divulge, Inez begins to have second thoughts. Inez, in a race against time to untangle the dealings of the high and the low during Grant's visit, must also face her own demons from the past, even as she fights to save her reputation and her life.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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