Gold Digger by Vicki Delany. RendezVous Crime, 2009.
Of all the light mysteries I’ve read lately, this one was the most fun. Set in Dawson in 1898, it features Fiona MacGillivray, a woman with a mysterious past who is now co-owner and manager of the Savoy saloon and dance hall. The action begins in the opening pages of the book. Fiona, returning to the Savoy one Sunday evening, her son Angus in tow, finds a slain body in the dance hall. Angus and his mother recognize the victim as Jack Ireland, a newly-arrived report who has been making enemies in town since stepping down at the docks. The balance of the book retraces events leading up to the murder, and climaxes in Fiona’s abduction as she confronts the killer.
At the end of the book, Delany lists a set of resources for those interested in learning more about the Klondike Gold Rush. I enjoyed her reconstruction of 1898 Dawson, and the rough and tumble cast of characters who peopled the town, both prospectors seeking their fortunes in the gold fields and those seeking their fortune through supplying the prospectors. Delaney includes interesting little details, such as the way the men who handled gold payments kept their nails long, the better to profit from any gold dust that might lodge there. She sends Constable Sterling off into the gold fields at Grand Forks on what seems like a rather unnecessary jaunt, the better to show readers another side of the gold rush.
Fiona and her son are likable and most of the supporting cast is too. I found Constable Richard Sterling a bit of a caricature, rather Dudley Do-Right, or at least Benton Fraser of Due South. He even has a big, white, wolfish dog named Mrs. Miller. Still, as the main potential love interest, he makes a good foil for Fiona’s questionable past and current shady employment. In the end, the mystery is solved and the scene is set for a sequel.