David C. Cook (June 1, 2010)
Bergren’s latest series draws you into the world of early mining settlements and the lives of consumption patients chasing relief. They were able to experience a relatively normal existence through new treatments and rules that flouted conventional medicine near the close of the 19th century in America. Colorado Springs was home to a “cutting edge” clinic with a success rate exceeding the expectations of the currently accepted practices of the day. Despite the uncertainties of the disease and the suffering that often ended in a patient’s death many flocked to clinics such as the one in Colorado hoping the successes were not just a lucky accident and that they would be among them. The St Clair’s first arrived in Colorado for just this reason, the middle sibling, Odessa was in advanced stages of the disease and her brother Nic (the eldest) and sister Moira (youngest) came to care for her and hopefully escape while still healthy and remain so. Eventually Odessa’s condition goes into remission and during her stay at the clinic she meets another patient who becomes her husband. Moira returns to her life of singing though in much different locales than before. Nic, the adrenaline junkie of the trio, travels the globe fighting for the money winning will earn. When he decides to give up the “sport” due to physical hazards, he eventually finds his way back to Colorado and lands unexpectedly into the role of a miner and father to a half grown boy. He inherits both following the boy’s father requesting he join as a partner to his mine and the father’s murder at the hands of men who wanted the supplies and perhaps the mine as well.
While Nic fears the risk is too great even for the promised profits from the given mine and feels the boy deserves so much better than he can provide, he can’t justify the alternatives for the boy. Nic first meets the neighboring claim’s resident, Sabine LaCrosse, at the muzzle of her rifle and under a threatening cloud of distrust. Although she cares for the boy (Everett) and respected his father she fears Nic is an interloper and he stumbled onto her property as an unknown quantity. Eventually Sabine and Nic come to a civil coexistence. Unfortunately some true interlopers and probable thieves are intent on acquiring the adjoining properties for their mining conglomerate. These men have an air of desperation and deceitful, corrupt practices to ensure they receive whatever they pursue on their shady terms. Nic and Sabine distrust these men and Nic detests the inequity of their intial offers. Once they “insist” on taking over by force, Nic becomes as leery as Sabine of their motives and honesty. As such they pursue other purchasers who will not only offer better terms but can be expected to provide the full compensation they offer. Danger trails the pair as well as their preferred investors who come to see the merchandise before the parley begins.
Though an agreement is finally negotiated, danger and memories still shadow Everett as he and his soon to be parents travel back to Nic’s family outside the Springs to see justice meted for the losses Everett has endured. Nic and Sabine also face violent enmity and rancor from those who resent the loss of additional profits by their evil and dishonest methods.
As usual Bergren weaves plot, locations, and characters with such taut details that readers are cocooned in the narrative as it unfolds. The adventure and suspense hustle readers through the story at breakneck pace with nary a breather. The story surrounds and abides in your imagination even after the pages have been once again shuttered within their covers. (ISBN#9781434767066, 400pp, $14.99)