“A great light and fun read that will take you to the old West’s most noteworthy wild west show and meet its most famous historical figures. A whodunit mystery, Girl with a Gun doubles as historical fiction – the word fiction is emphasized. Not everything that happens in Kari Bovée’s debut novel actually happened as Annie Mosey from Ohio transitioned to “Little Miss Sure Shot” in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Readers looking for a factual account should peruse the non-fiction and biography shelves.
For those who simply want to be entertained, and get a sense of life in 1885, then stand by for a good time as bodies keep dropping, a horse gets poisoned, and attempts are made on Annie Oakley’s life. Of the three major themes in mysteries, the reader will find them all in Girl with a Gun. There are multiple instances of characters seeking revenge; characters doing bad things while they attempt to obtain something that does not belong to them; and characters wanting to stop something that is happening that they do not like. Enough intertwining of facts with fiction, of plot weaving, and characters not being all they appear to make even Agatha Christi blush.
Author Kari Bovée manages to introduce some very important, and unexpected, serious themes into Girl with a Gun. We are faced right away with the choices available to women in 1885 – marriage, the whorehouse, or an uncertain life alone. Indeed, woman’s place in society is a major refrain as Annie doesn’t even get to choose her new name when she enters the show. Abuse of women and strong prejudices against Indians illuminate the dark underside of 1885 American society.
The strong bond between horse and human is today less understood by modern society but figures as a strong motivator in the plot. And like today, everyone has secrets – some of those matter to the outcome of the mystery and others are complications and red herrings tantalizingly introduced throughout the pages in excellent fashion.
Girl with a Gun will give the reader an inside view of the historic wild west show. We see jealousies, manipulation, rivalries, and choices to be made when the main attractions in the show come to understand they are just employees under the thumb of the owner. The reader learns quite a bit about horsemanship, shooting, showmanship, costumes and dress. Regardless of how the author adjusts the real world to tell her story, the life and times of Annie Oakley are vividly brought to life in a way that cannot be replicated by histories. Annie is depicted as a woman ahead of her times – brave, adventurous, willing to shoulder responsibility, and full of life. She is loyal to a fault. Readers will have no problem identifying with Annie and recognizing that her decisions, like their own, are sometimes made for all the wrong reasons. Supporting characters in the story are larger than life as are the real-world figures they represent.
Girl with a Gun is a major prize winner that bears your investigation. The book is very readable with a nice pace and short chapters. The major events of the story take place during April 1885 with the denouement occurring a few months later. There are some great lines worth remembering such as: “And as far as being friendly goes, I’m friendly, all right – just ask the boys.” Read the book. You will not be disappointed. Just ask the boys.”
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