The Second Glass of Absinthe

Written by Michelle Black
Review by Sarah Johnson

The booming mining town of Leadville, Colorado, in 1880 is the setting for Black’s latest mystery of the Victorian west, yet for a nice change, its most famous residents – Horace and Baby Doe Tabor – don’t steal the show. Kit Randall, the young lover of wealthy mining heiress Lucinda Ridenour, has moved out of their love nest in disgust after recovering absinthe-laced recollections of the previous night’s debauchery. When Lucinda is found stabbed to death the next morning, Kit becomes the prime suspect. The resourceful Eden Murdoch, in town to plan her wedding to Kit’s uncle Brad, joins forces with Kit’s clairvoyant ex-girlfriend in order to clear his name.

With this installment, Black has come into her own as a mystery writer, though her greatest strength is characterization. In her portrait of Kit Randall, a young man tormented by memories of youthful indiscretions, she ventures where few western novelists have gone. She also successfully takes on serious matters such as labor issues, addiction, and homosexuality, and demonstrates that even the most decent men occasionally succumb to prejudice. Though Eden and Brad aren’t at the forefront of the action, as they were in An Uncommon Enemy and Solomon Spring, this is another rewarding entry in a wonderful series.