Her 12 year old son, Angus, has come with her. In the boomtown of Dawson City Angus is an oddity. There are few women and fewer children in the Klondike.
With her business partner, Ray Walker, Fiona is running the Savoy Saloon and Dance Hall. The name is grander than the hastily built edifice deserves for a title. Fiona and Ray operate a combined dance hall, bar, show theatre and gambling room for the miners clawing gold from “the Creeks” near Dawson City.
While regally beautiful Fiona is succeeding in the rough and tumble Klondike because of her business skills. I think it unlikely she would have been able to run such a business in the large cities of the era. The Klondike has created business opportunities for women as well as men.
Evening entertainment begins promptly at 8:00 and roars through the night. Miners crowd in to watch the female singers and dancers. The enthusiastic patrons will toss gold nuggets on to the stage for their favourite singers and dancers.
On her way home for a quick supper before the usual hectic night at the Savoy, Fiona literally stumbles upon a man who has just been stabbed. He dies in her arms uttering the words “MacGillivray” and “Culloden”.
Fiona conceals from RCMP Corporal, Richard Sterling the deceased saying “Culloden” as she strives not to be involved in the investigation of the death of a man she had never met until that evening.
While titled a Klondike mystery the murder is almost incidental to the story. I found myself wondering when the plot would actually deal with the murder.
The book is really about Fiona running the Savoy and her personal life. She does not investigate the murder. She hopes memory of the killing will fade away as murder is bad for business. If a mystery, like the Joanne Kilbourn series by Gail Bowen, has murders come into the life of an amateur sleuth I prefer the lead character to be an important part of the investigation.
Sterling wants to solve the murder but relatively little of the book is about his investigation.
There is no history on the victim who had arrived in Dawson City but a few days before he was stabbed.
The real intrigue of the book is over the arrival in Dawson City of pert and pretty Eleanor Jennings. Another female entrepreneur she has come to establish a photography business. Offering to take a photo for free of the girls who perform at the Savoy causes quite a stir.
The attractive Eleanor also creates tension as Sterling is entranced by her.
The most interesting part of the book was the back story of Fiona on the streets of London as a young teenager fending for herself.
I was glad to see Delany integrated Angus into the story. He longs to grow up so he can join the Northwest Mounted Police.
I appreciated the insight into life and politics during the Klondike Gold Rush. I have read little of that time and place. Overall I enjoyed more the first book, A Cold White Sun, I read in Delany’s other series featuring Const. Molly Smith. The book had an active sleuth and concentrated on the mystery.
Readers who like historical fiction and strong women characters will enjoy the book. If you are looking to read a mystery you may be disappointed. I intend to read another in the series to see if Fiona is more of a sleuth in a different book.
****Gold Web is the 12th book of 13 books to meet the annual Canadian Book Challenge hosted at the Book Mine Set blog by John Mutford.