It's 1898, and Fiona MacGillivray is running a dance hall in Dawson City, Yukon. "Dance hall" and "respectable" would not seem to go together, but it is 1898, and it is Canada, even during a gold rush. There are decency laws. And Fiona is raising a son, twelve-year-old Angus. The lead dancer is still fully covered when she finishes the Dance of the Seven Veils, and the Savoy is the most popular dance hall in Dawson.
There's also the little potential difficulty of "Mrs" MacGillvray's own checkered past.
So it's definitely not a good development when, as Fiona and Angus are leaving the Savoy out the back door, a man stumbles up to them, collapses to the ground, utters two words ("MacGillivray" and "Culloden"), and dies, stabbed to death.
When the Mounties arrive, Fiona does not tell them, not even her good friend Corporal Richard Sterling, about the second word. Only that he died saying her last name.
What follows is an increasingly tense few weeks, as the investigation of the nameless stranger's death, the arrival in Dawson of a woman photographer from Chicago whom Richard Sterling seems very interested in, and growing competition and tension among her dancers and singers combine the make Fiona MacGillivray's life entirely too interesting for her tastes.
Sterling is also finding his life interesting, as the few clues available in the death of the stranger suggest the involvement of Scottish separatists and Americans who'd like to seize the Yukon for the United States.
When Fiona offers one of those dancers a solo and the dancer decides to do something "interesting," and the lady photographer, Eleanor Jennings, discovers her supply of flash powder has been stolen, things seem to be truly spiraling out of control.
This is a nicely plotted book with some interesting characters, along with a revealing look at a piece of the frontier and a part of the history of North America that's often overlooked.
I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.