One for Another, Andrea Jacka
A mystery set in 1880's Idaho with a bordello madam Hennessy Reed at the centre of it, that has a lot going for it. I know....
Hennessey Reed is a bordello madam with a liking for laudanum, irish whiskey and the local marshal. Although they keep that last one on the quiet as much as possible. Reed is more than a bit annoyed when her 3 young girls are murdered near her town, Melancholy, where she's part come to hide out and start again. When her own daughter goes missing, she's into the hunt, whether US Marshal Rafael Cooper likes it or not, and she's convinced that a threat from the past - the awful Jedidiah Cannon - is behind these killings.
Armed with a Bowie knife strapped to her calf, with faithful wolfhound Raven at her side, as the blurb puts it she becomes a one-woman stampede. And you can really believe that's exactly what Hennessey Reed would become when anybody is wronged on her watch. Needless to say Reed is the stand out of this novel. Strong, determined, bolshie and independent, this madam-come-avenger is a tremendous character with considerable ongoing series potential. Sure there's a tendency for this novel to get overly wordy at points, and the overtness of the threat and the white hat / bad hat obviousness needs dialling back a bit, along with some tweakage to the flow of dialogue and plot to help achieve a more overall pace consistency, but they are mostly minor irritations that could be easily resolved, and might not even be an issue if you're more of a fan of historical styled novels than fast paced crime fiction.
At the heart of ONE FOR ANOTHER, the standouts, however, are the great character of Reed, the strong supporting cast around her, and the interesting scenario into which those characters are placed. Tighten the delivery up and you can't help but feel there's something very good coming our way.
Laudanum. Irish whiskey. The tried and true escape routes of bordello madam Hennessey Reed. On this occasion she suspects even their combined magic will not soothe her distress. The girl lying violated on the undertaker's table will remain dead, wounds horrifying and inexplicable, reminiscent of Indian sacrifice.
Hennessey treasures the uneasy peace she has found in the remote town of Melancholy in 1880s Idaho Territory. However the discovery of three more young victims—all girls of similar age to her daughter Evie—compromises this hard-won equilibrium when she recognizes one of the girls.
Usually content to tend her own business and leave others to mind theirs, Hennessey decides U.S. Marshal Rafael Cooper requires her help to search for the killer but acknowledges, if consulted, he may not necessarily agree.
Although helped by an eclectic group dedicated to the barstools in her saloon, she is hindered by demons stifled by addiction and myopic hatred of Jedidiah Cannon: a man from her past she is convinced is involved in the present-day murders.
So with her Bowie strapped to her calf and wolfhound Raven at her side Hennessey sets out to investigate—a one-woman stampede.