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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gold Web by Vicki Delany

Gold Web by Vicki Delany – Fiona MacGillivray is an enterprising Scottish woman who has made her way from the Isle of Skye to London to North America to the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon at the end of the 19th Century. 

Her 12 year old son, Angus, has come with her. In the boomtown of Dawson City Angus is an oddity. There are few women and fewer children in the Klondike. 

With her business partner, Ray Walker, Fiona is running the Savoy Saloon and Dance Hall. The name is grander than the hastily built edifice deserves for a title. Fiona and Ray operate a combined dance hall, bar, show theatre and gambling room for the miners clawing gold from “the Creeks” near Dawson City.  

While regally beautiful Fiona is succeeding in the rough and tumble Klondike because of her business skills. I think it unlikely she would have been able to run such a business in the large cities of the era. The Klondike has created business opportunities for women as well as men. 

Evening entertainment begins promptly at 8:00 and roars through the night. Miners crowd in to watch the female singers and dancers. The enthusiastic patrons will toss gold nuggets on to the stage for their favourite singers and dancers. 

On her way home for a quick supper before the usual hectic night at the Savoy, Fiona literally stumbles upon a man who has just been stabbed. He dies in her arms uttering the words “MacGillivray” and “Culloden”.

Fiona conceals from RCMP Corporal, Richard Sterling the deceased saying “Culloden” as she strives not to be involved in the investigation of the death of a man she had never met until that evening.

While titled a Klondike mystery the murder is almost incidental to the story. I found myself wondering when the plot would actually deal with the murder.

The book is really about Fiona running the Savoy and her personal life. She does not investigate the murder. She hopes memory of the killing will fade away as murder is bad for business. If a mystery, like the Joanne Kilbourn series by Gail Bowen, has murders come into the life of an amateur sleuth I prefer the lead character to be an important part of the investigation.

Sterling wants to solve the murder but relatively little of the book is about his investigation.

There is no history on the victim who had arrived in Dawson City but a few days before he was stabbed.

The real intrigue of the book is over the arrival in Dawson City of pert and pretty Eleanor Jennings. Another female entrepreneur she has come to establish a photography business. Offering to take a photo for free of the girls who perform at the Savoy causes quite a stir.

The attractive Eleanor also creates tension as Sterling is entranced by her.

The most interesting part of the book was the back story of Fiona on the streets of London as a young teenager fending for herself.

I was glad to see Delany integrated Angus into the story. He longs to grow up so he can join the Northwest Mounted Police.

I appreciated the insight into life and politics during the Klondike Gold Rush. I have read little of that time and place. Overall I enjoyed more the first book, A Cold White Sun, I read in Delany’s other series featuring Const. Molly Smith. The book had an active sleuth and concentrated on the mystery.  

Readers who like historical fiction and strong women characters will enjoy the book. If you are looking to read a mystery you may be disappointed. I intend to read another in the series to see if Fiona is more of a sleuth in a different book.
Gold Web is the 12th book of 13 books to meet the annual Canadian Book Challenge hosted at the Book Mine Set blog by John Mutford.


  1. Bill - The history and the setting really are draws in this novel, I think. And there are some books (and this is one of them) that focus more on those things than they do on the murder mystery itself. As you say, that's not for everyone, but I think it's clear here that Delany 'does her homework.' I'll be interested in what you think of another in this series.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Delany does an excellent job of evoking the Klondike.

  2. I have just discovered Vicki Delany, but like you started with a modern book. I like the idea of this - I find the idea of the Gold Rush fascinating. When we lived in Seattle we went on a trip taking in various gold rush sites in the Yukon, and I was spellbound.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. Vicki is a good writer.

      I regret to admit I have never been to the Yukon. I am glad you enjoyed your trip there.

  3. Hello from a sunny Manitoba! I was fortunate to win this at the Canadian group and see it has two prequels. It is my way to acquire them first but wonder if others concur this series is best, properly introduced. Have a lovely day. Carolyn [ "Ethereal" | "My Kind Of Mystery" | "Gentle Spectrums" ] http://cmriedel.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/riedelchallengesfaq/

  4. It's Carolyn and it was a question. :) Oddly, everyone takes me as rhetorical (which is far from who I am) so I really must look into why that is! I was asking anyone and everyone, if the first two prequels ought to be obtained first.
    [ "Ethereal" | "My Kind Of Mystery" | "Gentle Spectrums" ] http://cmriedel.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/riedelchallengesfaq/

    1. Carolyn: I am not really able to answer your question as I have not read the earlier books in the series. Based on this book I think it would have been better to have read the earlier books to understand some of the relationships.

  5. I think so too. It might have raised the interest you described, to be invested from the heroine's beginnings. I see this is volume IV. Thank you very much. Should you crave a straight mystery theme, I created an all-encompassing one (non-fiction, author bios; anything). Like John, I avoid a Christmas rush, running Feb to Feb. :) Gardening in Manitoba, Carolyn. http://cmriedel.wordpress.com/mykindofmystery2014/

  6. I will probably try this series if only to read about the Klondike but not sure I will continue if it is not primarily a mystery. Good review, tells me what I need to know.

  7. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your kind words.