Silver Lies and Angelica

When Anne first tumbled onto Ann Parker’s Silver Rush historical mystery series, she jumped on it and devoured book one, Silver Lies. She also discovered a mention of angelica in book three, Leaden Skies.

What fun! Parker’s series, featuring saloonkeeper Inez Stannert in Leadville, Colorado, mostly in the early 1880s, is a terrific window on the reality of frontier America. It was really tough, especially for a woman who has been abandoned by her husband. Anne loved that Inez is no wilting flower, but a strong woman determined to make it on her own (not unlike Anne’s character Maddie Wilcox from the Old Los Angeles series).

In Silver Lies, which starts in December, 1879, Inez finds herself on the hunt to find out who killed a local mining assayer. Given that the fellow was corrupt as all get out and that the town is filled with all manner of unsavory types, Inez has her hands full.

What to drink

We chose Angelica to accompany this little tale of greed and murder, partly because the guys at Inez’ saloon, The Silver Queen, would have been drinking angelica wine from California. Well, along with whiskey. They mostly drank whiskey. But Parker had found a manifest with angelica listed on it.

Label from a bottle of Angelica

Angelica is basically a sherry, a fortified wine. It can be pretty strong, like Inez, but it also has a softer side, also like Inez. Sherry is the sort of drink that people of refined backgrounds drank. Inez, herself, came from a family with money.

Admittedly, finding angelica these days can be a bit of a challenge. It will definitely be easier to find Silver Lies, as it’s available all over. But try going to Ann Parker’s website first. Then sit back, get a good fire going, a glass of angelica or sherry, and immerse yourself in 1879.

A Trace of Gold with a Good Zinfandel

We’re trying something a little new here – wine and book pairings. Given Anne’s connections in the world of mystery writing, it seems kind of obvious that we’d want to take advantage of that. Our first book is A Trace of Gold, by Tim Chapman.

Tim Chapman is one of Anne’s virtual friends through the Blackbird Writers group. He also wrote a fun little thriller featuring Sean McKinney, a widowed forensic scientist on the trail of someone killing senior citizens with ties to the Ma Barker/Karpis gang of bank robbers in the 1930s.

We chose zinfandel to pair with Chapman’s tale. Zin pairs well with the historical subplot of the book, which takes place during the Great Depression and after Prohibition was repealed. Because Prohibition had killed so many U.S. wineries, what few remained were mostly making zinfandel.

Like zin, the book is complex with plotting in two time periods, office politics, and lots of mixed emotions as McKinney tries to navigate his grief while raising a teen-age daughter.

Sample label/Keystone Wines not available to the public

Good zin should be complex, too. There are those of us who remember the zinfandels of the 1990s, which were heavy on the fruit flavors and alcohol. Not so anymore. Today’s zins do have some fruit which makes them good with barbecue and solid murder mysteries. But they should also have a little bit of pepper flavor, which works great with McKinney, who can be pretty cranky.

We featured zin a while ago with a lesson from Katie Madigan, of St. Francis Winery and Vineyards. As for Tim, you can find out more about him and A Trace of Gold on his website, thrillingtales.com.