Monday, June 25, 2007

The Second Glass of Absinthe, by Michelle Black

(hb; 2003)

From the inside flap:

“In the American West of 1880, Leadville, Colorado is the wealthiest mining district on earth, and by far the richest mine is the Eye Dazzler.

“When Lucinda Ridenour, the notorious widow-heiress to the Dazzler, chooses young Kit Randall to be her lover, Kitt thinks he has the world at his feet. But when their affair sinks into depravity, he must rediscover himself and find out if he has the character to survive in a society that has more money than morals.

“After waking up from an absinthe-created hallucination in which unspeakable acts seem to have taken place, Kit angrily leaves the house of Lucinda and her twenty-year old son, Christopher, feeling betrayed and exploited. Then, Lucinda is found stabbed to death.

“In the midst of this turmoil and of Leadville’s anxiety over its labor unrest and the impending arrival of the railroad, Kit’s uncle, Brad Randall, and his fiancée, Eden Murdoch, arrive in the boomtown planning to celebrate their wedding, but are instead shocked to learn Kit is the primary suspect in a sensational murder.

“Eden resolves to learn the truth and clear Kit Randall’s name. To do so, she forms an uneasy alliance with Bella Valentine, Kit’s former girlfriend and a dabbler in the occult. With this unlikely ally Eden uncovers shocking secrets of the Ridenour family just as Leadville’s first labor strike brings the town to an armed and dangerous standstill.”

Review:

Black packs enough historical backdrop and details into her novel to almost make the reader forget that this is a mystery novel; at the same time, however, the novel is clearly mystery-driven, as almost every scene relates to Randall’s supposed crime, with nary an extraneous word put to paper.

Absorbing, wonderful, and character- and period-rich (I’m a sucker for a well-written Western), this is a worthwhile work.

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