The Secret in the Wall
2023 Spur Award Winner * Historical Novel Society Editor's Pick
"Appealing characters match satisfying puzzles. Historical fans will be delighted." —Publishers Weekly
Sometimes you can't keep your gown out of the gutter…
Inez Stannert has reinvented herself—again. Fleeing the comfort and wealth of her East Coast upbringing, she became a saloon owner and card sharp in the rough silver boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, always favoring the unconventional path—a difficult road for a woman in the late 1800s.
Then the teenaged daughter of a local prostitute is orphaned by her mother's murder, and Inez steps up to raise the troubled girl as her own. Inez works hard to keep a respectable, loving home for Antonia, carefully crafting their new life in San Francisco. But risk is a seductive friend, difficult to resist. When a skeleton tumbles from the wall of her latest business investment, the police only seem interested in the bag of Civil War-era gold coins that fell out with it. With her trusty derringer tucked in the folds of her gown, Inez uses her street smarts and sheer will to unearth a secret that someone has already killed to keep buried. The more she digs, the muddier and more dangerous things become.
She enlists the help of Walter de Brujin, a local private investigator with whom she shares some history. Though she wants to trust him, she fears that his knowledge of her past, along with her growing attraction to him, may well blow her veneer of respectability to bits—that is, if her dogged pursuit of the truth doesn't kill her first.
Agatha finalist Parker's intricate eighth Silver Rush mystery (after 2020's Mortal Music) finds onetime Colorado saloon owner Inez Stannert and her 12-year-old ward, Antonia Gizzi, settled comfortably in 1882 San Francisco. A shrewd investor dedicated to helping other businesswomen, Stannert agrees to co-purchase a long unoccupied building with a lodging house owner who hopes to expand. When they break through the wall between the boardinghouse and the new property, a skeleton tumbles out. Neither the building's former owner nor its surly caretaker, Joe Harris, admits to knowing the dead man's identity, so Inez puts her investigatory talents to work. The corpse wears the remains of a Confederate Navy uniform, has scraps of a letter from Jefferson Davis hidden in its shoe, and carries a fortune in gold coins minted in 1863. Though the clues all point to the past, Harris's subsequent murder proves that danger remains. Surreptitious sleuthing by the headstrong, clever Antonia helps untangle the mystery. Appealing characters match satisfying puzzles. Historical fans will be delighted. Agent: Anne Hawkins, John Hawkins & Assoc.