Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reader's Diary #866- Vicki Delany: Gold Mountain

Very recently an author chastised me for a negative review after I'd written that his wasn't a genre I liked in the first place. I get the point. If I don't like Mexican food, do I still get to complain after my 19th burrito? But in my defense, what if I give up and don't discover that I love tacos?

Case in point: mysteries. Last year I read through mystery after mystery, not enjoying any. Yet this year— because I kept an open mind— I discovered Michelle Wan's Deadly Slipper, a mystery set in France that, while I didn't think it was perfect, quite enjoyed. Likewise, I have similar feelings about Vicki Delany's Gold Mountain.

Gold Mountain is a mystery set in the Yukon during the gold rush. It's a part of Vicki Delany's Klondike Mystery series, of which I'd not read any earlier books but had no trouble following along. It's a story about a strong-willed business woman named Fiona MacGillivray and Paul Sheridan, a lackey of real life Alaskan gangster Soapy Smith. Sheridan has shown up in Dawson City with two goals in mind: to marry Fiona (who'd he'd met earlier in Skagway, Alaska) and to find a mysterious mountain of gold which is supposedly surrounded by a lush paradise despite lying somewhere north of Dawson. When Fiona doesn't agree to accompany him on his ludicrous trek, let alone marry him, Sheridan kidnaps her and sets off anyway. It's up to Fiona's son Angus and Corporal Sterling, a local mountie, to save her.

I don't usually think of kidnappings as mysteries, but I guess having to track someone down could qualify one as such. And even though she's presented as a tough, independent woman, I had some reservations about Fiona having to be rescued by a man, though I suppose it does happen in real life on occasion, not just in old Disney movies.

And really, it was a fine read anyway. It was certainly entertaining,  I liked the flashbacks into Fiona's past, and I especially liked how Delany toyed with the old myth about the long lost arctic paradise. Back in the days of the first European explorers many believed there was an inexplicably warm oasis just waiting to be discovered. I love when authors play with this old legend (see Kevin Cannon's Far Arden), and I especially liked how Delany used it to her advantage, keeping the supernatural myth in tact without compromising the realism of her tale.

Of course, I also loved the setting. Maybe that's the secret to my enjoyment of mysteries: an interesting locale.

(A question: Twice in the book, Fiona mentions "laugher." The first time I'd assumed it was a typo. But then after the second time, I questioned it. Looking it up, it appears "laugher" is an actual word. It could mean either one who laughs or slang for a sport game in which one team easily beats another with a sizable margin. The problem, however, is that neither of these meanings fit the context of the book. In the book, it would appear that "laughter" is simply spelled wrong. The only other theory is that Fiona is from Scotland and it's 1897. Could that be how the Scottish would have said the word back then?)


Vicki Delany said...

Thanks for the mention, John. I'm very glad you liked the book. As you pointed out, it isn't actually a mystery. But it is a crime store. And, yes, laugher is an error. drat.

Vicki Delany said...

That would be crime story. Yet another typo.

John Mutford said...

Vicki: Mystery, crime, whatever the label it was a very fun read!