August 16, 2012

Gold Mountain: A Klondike Mystery. Book review


Author: Vicki Delany
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: Dundurn
Date published: April 23, 2012
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1459701895
ISBN-13: 978-1459701892
Price: $17.99
Vicki Delany's website
Purchase book on Amazon

Gold Mountain: A Klondike Mystery is the third and latest novel in the Klondike Mystery series from Canadian author Vicki Delany. I chose to review this book because Soapy Smith plays a minor role, while fictional character and member of the Soap Gang, Paul Sheridan, plays a major role within the story.

I admit I am not a huge fan of fictional novels, but I do enjoy some "historical novels," fictional stories composed around an actual event. I can sincerely state that I positively enjoyed Vicki Delany’s vivid, yet easy to read and follow, storytelling approach. I found myself captured in each moment and anxiously awaiting each coming page to witness just how her memorable characters managed to cope and deal with one another’s predicaments and schemes, not to mention the unforgiving landscape and harsh environment in which the characters found themselves. One not need read the two previous books to thoroughly enjoy this third edition, but I so enjoyed the author’s fun, suspenseful style that I recommend reading all three books in chronological order.

Book 1: Gold Digger: A Klondike Mystery
Book 2: Gold Fever: A Klondike Mystery
Book 3: Gold Mountain: A Klondike Mystery

Vicki Delany’s story revolves around the 1897-98 Klondike gold rush and Fiona MacGillibray, the beautiful, brave mother and Dawson dance hall proprietor, and her struggles with kidnapper, Soap Gang member Paul Sheridan who has been obsessed with her since first meeting in the American boom town of Skagway.

Fiona, the main character, had hoped to open a theater in the boom town of Skagway, Alaska but she quickly discovered that the town crime boss, Soapy Smith, would not allow her to open unless she worked for him. Not willing to sell her dreams short, Fiona and her 11-year-old son, Angus move across the border into Canada, and head to Dawson in the Klondike, Yukon Territory where Soapy had no control. While in Skagway Fiona had gained the admiration of Paul Sheridan a member of Soapy’s gang. Paul later shows up in Dawson unannounced, with a plan for Fiona to marry and follow him on a wild chase for riches based on a secret treasure map Paul obtained under shadily circumstance. When Fiona proves to be uncooperative, Paul forcefully abducts her and sets out unprepared on a quest through uncharted territory with the hope that she would change her mind once they found the mysterious Gold Mountain. Does the mountain of gold really exist or is it simply another Klondike stampede myth? Or is there something else, something unexplainable and mystic?

Once kidnaped, Fiona’s son, Angus and her love interest, Corporal Richard Sterling of the North-West Mounted Police, and an odd assortment of townspeople, follow Paul’s tracks to rescue Fiona. In between all the frenzy drama, Fiona’s character fills the reader in on the details of her youth, leading up to her arrival in Alaska and the Klondike. I so enjoyed the jog of realization that I experienced when time periods changed as they related to Fiona’s physical and mental state as the transitions are cleverly disguised so that the reader suddenly realizes that Fiona has lapsed into deep thought of times passed.

“The word Chaos has been invented to describe Skagway in the late summer of 1897.”

Author Vicki Delany knows her history. I have spent over a quarter-of-a-century researching the Klondike gold rush and I found no historical mistakes on the author’s part in this book, and that is no small accomplishment. I found her adherence to history a very pleasing addition which transported me back to 1897-1898 and kept me there throughout the entire book.
“Suspense, intrigue, greed, romance, historical detail, colorful characters, and a warm-hearted tale of a single mother struggling to scrape out a living in a time and place where women had little or no rights,” Not my words but fittingly accurate.

I fully enjoyed Vicki’s description of Fiona’s arrival in Skagway. A time before the wharfs for ships to dock meant goods and animals, horses and humans were “unceremoniously dumped.” Fiona sees her arrival in Alaska as “sheer horror” and the author portrayed the scenes splendidly for the pleasure of my mind’s eye. Soapy Smith makes his appearance in chapters 7 through 10 (pages 50-71). His name pops up here and there afterward as Soapy Smith the bad man, and then as Soapy the horse she names and rides while a captive of Paul Sheridan. This book is a great read for fans of Soapy Smith as well as history buffs of the Klondike gold rush, brought to full life in a novel setting.


1777: The Battle of Bennington takes place. New England's minutemen route the British regulars.
1812: Detroit falls to Indian and British troops during the War of 1812.
1829: 18-year-old "Siamese twins," Chang and Eng Bunker, arrive in Boston, Massacusetts for exhibition. They have been joined at the waist since birth.
1858: A telegraph message from Britain's Queen Victoria to U.S. President Buchanan is transmitted over the recently laid trans-Atlantic cable.
1861: U.S. President Lincoln prohibits Union states from trading with the states of the Confederacy.
1878: Lawman John Beckwith is involved in a shooting in the home of his father, Henry, who had killed his son-in-law, William Johnson, during an argument in the ranch house located in New Mexico Territory. John had tried to intervene and was almost shot by his own father. Earlier in the year John was among those who killed rancher John Tunstall, setting off the infamous Lincoln County war.
1896: George Carmack discovers gold in the Yukon starting the Klondike gold rush.
1899: Outlaw “Black Jack” Ketchum stopped a Colorado & Southern train near Folsom, Arizona Territory. After robbing the train, conductor Frank Harrington fired at him with a shotgun but apparently missed. The two men continued exchanging shots and both men were wounded, Ketchum receiving buckshot in the chest, but he managed to escape. Ketchum was found the next day alive and propped against a tree. He was taken to Santa Fe where he was tried and sentenced to death.
1923: 20 members of the Denver Blonger gang are arrested in a raid that ends Blonger rule in the city. The Blonger’s were Soapy Smith’s successors to the underworld throne in Denver.
1924: Former Doolin-Dalton outlaw gang member Roy Daugherty, alias “Arkansas Tom,” is killed in a shootout with lawmen in Missouri.

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