How the West was drunk, framed, and turned fugitive.
Spring 1880. Kit Randall, blessed with the family dimples and cursed with an excess of what his stepaunt Eden Murdoch calls “animal spirits,” finds himself in Leadville, Colorado, in the arms of wealthy widow Lucinda Ridenour. Being kept by the sensuous older woman isn’t so bad until one hallucinatory evening under the influence of absinthe. When Lucinda taunts Kit the next morning about the night he can hardly recall, he leaves. Lucinda ups the ante by charging him with theft, and before he can clear himself, she’s found murdered. Brad Randall, his idolized uncle, and Eden, his stepaunt-to-be, arrive in Leadville to find Kit hiding out with a former girlfriend, Bella Valentine, the local fortuneteller and medium. Christopher Ridenour, Lucinda’s son and Kit’s former friend, now single-handedly running the Eye Dazzler Mine, source of the family wealth, sets his bodyguards on him; Eden responds by sending Kit to nurse his injuries in a camp out of town. When Brad is summoned back East to the bedside of his sick son, Eden picks up the investigative slack by joining Ridenour’s household as a maid, uncovering an unusual family history and all-too-usual labor conflicts surrounding the mine. With the help of loyal and unorthodox Bella, Eden saves Kit and identifies the real killer.
Kit and Bella are appealing, eccentric ingénues in an unappealingly politically correct tale from Black (Solomon Spring, 2002, etc.).