Fatal as a Fallen Woman
Second in the Diana Spaulding mystery series, the novel continues the adventures of that 19th-century journalist. She has quit her job at the Independent Intelligencer with the intention of accepting Ben Northcote’s proposal when her editor tells her that not only has her estranged father been killed in a hotel in Denver, but her equally estranged mother, now divorced from her father, has been accused of the crime. Although her parents had disowned her six years earlier when she married gambling, ne’er-do-well actor Evan Spaulding, she goes to Denver to help her mother. She finds a city from which she had previously been sheltered, full of gambling halls and brothels, and to her consternation, her mother is the owner of one of those brothels! But, to her credit, she takes that in stride and moves in, living and dining with “the girls” as she unravels the mystery of her father’s murder.
Although some twists and characters’ intentions are telegraphed to the reader before Diana picks up on them, this is another engaging book in this series. Emerson vividly depicts 19th-century life in the West: a thin veneer of respectability with a large dose of lawlessness underneath. Diana faces the usual struggles of a woman in that time and proves her mettle. Bring on the third in this series; I eagerly await it.