Candy Moulton: Reading the West 8-12-13
When Ophelia Wylde sees a dead girl “lying atop a bronze tablet” as the train rolls in to Dodge City, Kan., in the 1870s, she has no idea that her plans to travel on to Denver are about to be put on hold.
She was off the train as soon as it stopped to stretch her legs, partially, but more so to check out the body she’d seen from the train window. Stepping smartly along the tracks she passes a drunk who calls her Katie, fails to see the corpse, and lands in the hands of the town law dog before she knows it.
Hauled off to jail and accused of being Kate Bender, who is wanted in Kansas for her role in killing travelers who stopped at the Bender farm, Ophelia is in a pickle that will take all her wits and uncommon skills to surmount.
But this resourceful traveler has a sense about her that goes beyond the average. She can “see” things. She can conduct a séance and converse with the dead. That, dear readers, is why she is so intrigued by the woman lying on the bronze tablet.
Released from jail, she enlists the aid of the drunk whose act of calling her “Katie” landed her in the hoosegow in the first place, and she holds a town event that attracts a large contingent of the rough cowboy crowd, the town judge, and a few other upstanding citizens. Utilizing the drunk, and her own intuitive and investigative abilities, she wows the crowd with her abilities to see into a person’s history and to speak with the dead.
This event fills her pockets with some needed funds, and gives her the chance to work to restoring her good name and freedom.
Max McCoy crafts a masterful mystery that has a tinge of the supernatural and a whole lot of good old-fashioned Western history in “A Grave Concern.”
Miss Ophelia Wylde is a clever, enciteful, and well-developed character and she quickly surrounds herself with equally bestowed characters as she works to get to the bottom of the case against her, and to determine what has happened to Kate Bender.
Her mission is greatly aided by Bartholomew Potete, Esquire (who is quite clever and able in spite of his being all too familiar with a bottle of whiskey), and Jack Calder, a member of the Dodge City Vigilance Committee.
This is not your traditional Western, but has the fast-pace, the action, and the setting of any good story of the West.
There’s a good resolution to the story and a hint that perhaps we have not heard the last of Miss Ophelia Wylde and Jack Calder. ❖
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