Murder and mayhem strike Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in St. Louis right after Annie Oakley and her horse, Buck, join the entourage.
It’s 1885, and 15-year-old Annie Mosey is an instant sensation during a competition in Greenville, Ohio, with the famous sharpshooter Frank Butler. Watching the performance are “Buffalo Bill” Cody, aka “the Colonel,” and Sioux Chief Sitting Bull, who entice Annie to join the Colonel’s Wild West Show, which is on its way to the city for a four-week engagement. They change her last name to Oakley, and Sitting Bull calls her “Watanya Cecilia” (“Little Miss Sure Shot”). It’s all quite overwhelming for the Quaker girl, who’s been supporting her mother and two younger siblings with her hunting prowess. Annie shares a tent with Kimimela (nicknamed “Kimi”), a young Sioux girl, and her infant daughter, and they quickly bond. But there are enemies lurking: the Colonel’s mistress, a Roma woman named Twila Midnight, who’s been hostile from the start, and a new addition to the show, sharpshooter Lillian “Lillie” Smith, who’s Twila’s adopted sister. One night, Annie returns to her tent after a dinner celebration and discovers Kimi’s dead body. Although Kimi is only 14, the local coroner rules it a death by natural causes. Annie is convinced that Kimi has been murdered, but what could be the motive? Bovée’s debut novel brings readers solidly into the heyday of the Wild West shows, providing wonderful details about the elaborate costumes and the characters’ remarkable marksmanship: Frank shoots a playing card out of Annie’s hand, and she shoots a cigarette out of his mouth. The love-hate relationship between Annie and Frank is based on historical fact, although the timetable for some of the events here is altered for dramatic effect. The mystery, too, is a product of Bovée’s imagination; Kimi’s murder is only the first to hit the show. There are enough entertaining elements to keep readers guessing, including romance, rivalries, jealousy, and at least one evil character from Annie’s past. The prose has a charming simplicity, which keeps the attention focused on the action and the well-developed protagonist.
A quick, fun read with engaging rodeo scenes.