“Author Kari Bovee has fictionalized true characters in her lively mystery, Girl with a Gun. The story begins in St. Louis, Missouri, 1885.
Fifteen year-old Annie Oakley is the sole supporter of her mother and two younger siblings. Annie is an excellent marksman and sells game to the local markets to make ends meet. While in town one day, she competes in a shooting contest and is invited to become a part of the renowned Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show.
Annie meets her assistant, Kimi, a fictionalized teenage Indian girl whose murder begins the story. Thus begins a string of events which could not only endanger Annie, but could also ruin the Wild West Show. True characters, which the author portrays with their known characteristics, include Frank Butler, Buffalo Bill, and Sitting Bull.
As the mystery thickens, Anne’s shooting and riding skills catapult her to fame. When a scandal erupts that could bring her career to a crashing end, she enlists the assistance of a newspaper reporter who has the resources to help unravel the mystery.
I enjoyed Girl with a Gun and learning more about Annie Oakley and her strong Quaker background. I appreciated author Bovee’s attention to detail and her obviously solid research, particularly of period clothing, guns used in that era, and horse behavior. The mystery novel also touches on Annie’s later interest in women’s suffrage and in teaching women how to use guns for self-defense. ”
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“Good use of known characters woven around a fictional series of murders linked to the Irish Troubles and the Indian Mutiny in a murder mystery. I enjoyed it, and the insight into the worlds of Queen Victoria and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.”
Love this international review from Ian in the UK!
“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.”
Did Mary, Queen of Scots, play a role in the death of her second husband, Lord Darnley? The mystery may never be solved. What would prompt a Queen, carrying the child of her husband, to kill him? According to history, the reasons are varied and some even say, sound. The evidence that put her life on the line lies within the mysterious Casket Letters.
Mary, the only child of King James V of Scotland and Marie de Guise, ascended to the throne of Scotland at six days old. Marie de Guise sent her infant daughter, Mary, to France to be raised in the French court, while she ruled Scotland as Queen Regent until Mary became of age.
At 16, Mary wed Louis, the dauphin of France, aged 15, as arranged by her mother and Henri II, King of France. Months later, Henri died due to injuries from a lance wound to the eye. Louis, the eldest child of the King and Catherine de Medici, took the throne. An odd pair—Mary, vivacious, beautiful and tall, and Louis small, awkward, and fragile—the two had great affection for one another. At Louis’s death a year after their marriage, Mary went into deep mourning.
Widowed, the teenaged Mary left France, the only home she’d known, and returned to Scotland. Required by her status to produce an heir, Mary needed to wed, again. The obvious choice–her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Both the same age, the two got along well at first, but Darnley’s fondness for drinking and other women didn’t set well with Mary. Also, he craved power and demanded she grant him the Crown Matrimonial. Knowing that to meet his demands would make Darnley King of Scotland at her death, she refused.
During her unhappy marriage to Darnley, Mary befriended the Italian courtier, also her private secretary, David Ricco. Unhappy in her marriage, yet faithful to her duties, Mary became pregnant with Darnley’s child. Jealous of their relationship, Darnley accused Mary of an affair with Ricco, claiming she carried Ricco’s child and not his. At a small dinner party Mary hosted for her ladies-in-waiting and Ricco, Darnley had Ricco savagely stabbed over 50 times, while some of Darnley’s men held Mary at gunpoint. The incident made it impossible for Mary to continue with Darnley.
After the birth of her son, James, Mary sought help from James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, and other Scottish nobles to remove Darnley from power, and Mary’s life. Divorce not an option for Mary, a Catholic Queen, she had to come up with something else. Darnley got wind of Mary’s plans and fearing for his safety, fled to Glasgow to hide out at his family’s estate. He soon became ill, with what might have been small pox or syphilis. Poison could not be ruled out, either.
Mary pleaded with him to come back to Edinburgh. He agreed to stay at Kirk O’Field, a former abbey at the outskirts of the city. Mary visited him daily while he recuperated, and it looked as if there might be a reconciliation. However, on a February morning in 1567, Darnley was found dead in the gardens of the estate. An explosion devastated Kirk o’Field the night before. Mary, her half-brother James (Earl of Moray), and Bothwell were implicated in the murder. Bothwell stood trial. Acquitted in the absence of evidence, he declared his aim to marry the Queen of Scots, and received support from several lords and bishops.
Bothwell and Mary eventually married, 12 days after Bothwell’s divorce from his wife. Again, Mary suffered an unhappy union, and the marriage proved unpopular with both Catholics and Protestants. It is unclear whether Mary loved Bothwell or not, if he somehow coerced her to marry him, or if she came to the marriage as a willing partner. Some records indicate that Bothwell raped her after he abducted her from Stirling castle, some time before they wed.
The Peerage, twenty-six confederate lords, turned against Mary and Bothwell, and raisedan army against them. Mary and Bothwell attempted to confront the lords with force, but Mary’s troops deserted. The lords granted Bothwell safe passage from the battlefield, but they took Mary to Edinburgh, and forced her to abdicated to her one-year-old son, James.
Mary’s half-brother, the Earl of Moray, assumed the role of Regent, and to keep his power, turned against Mary. He handed over over “the Casket letters” to Queen Elizabeth, who now had the upper hand in her quest for Scottish rule. The Casket letters consisted of 8 unsigned letters from Mary to Bothwell, two marriage contracts, and love sonnets, nestled in a foot long silver casket bearing the monogram of King Francis II, Mary’s first husband.
Elizabeth wrote to Mary, imploring her for the truth. Mary denied writing the documents, but the situation did not help Mary’s cause, and many thought the letters proof of her plotting with Bothwell to murder Darnley. Years later, on 11 August 1586, after being implicated in a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth, (the Babbington Plot) Elizabeth had no choice and had Mary arrested. With the controversy of the Casket letters, and then the possibility that Mary might have plotted against the Queen of England, Mary stood as a constant threat to Elizabeth’s power, her throne, and her very life. In February of 1587, Elizabeth order Mary’s execution—a gruesome beheading that took several strokes of the axe.
Did Mary have a hand in the death of Lord Darnley? If so, one could hardly blame her after the brutal murder of her friend and confidant, Ricco. Mary’s upbringing might lead people to believe she knew all to well the importance of maintaining royal power at any cost. She grew up in the court of Henry II, under the care of Catherine de Medici, France’s most famed wicked woman. Yet, no matter how fierce her desire to maintain control of her crown and her country, Mary never demonstrated the same ruthlessness of d’Medici, or even her own husband, Darnley.
Perhaps in his eagerness to wed the Queen, Bothwell used her to plot the death of her husband, and then take power himself. Did Mary love Bothwell, or did he serve as a means to an end? Did someone in Mary’s confidence betray her with the mysterious Casket letters? Historical data is never perfect. The mystery of the Casket letters and their implications in Mary’s guilt will, most likely, never be solved.
The ethereal beauty, Olive Thomas, is the inspiration for one of the secondary characters in my novel, Grace in the Wings, a Daphne du Maurier unpublished contest winner. The novel is the first book in a mystery series that is currently being shopped by my agent for purchase.
Sophia Michelle is the older sister of my protagonist, Grace Michelle. Orphaned at 15, Sophia vowed that she and Grace would always have a roof over their heads, never go hungry and never live in an orphanage. She relied on the only asset she possessed at the time, her captivating beauty. She spent many nights “out” but always provided for her sister until she was discovered by the famous show-man, Florenz Ziegfeld, who took the girls under his wing and made Sophia a star. When Sophia is murdered, Grace is devastated and sets out to discover who killer her sister.
Olive Thomas was born Olivia R. Duffy, October 20, 1894, to a working class Irish American family in Pennsylvania. At 15 years of age she was forced to leave school to help support the family. At 16 she married Bernard Krush Thomas. The marriage lasted two years. After her divorce she moved to New York City, lived with a family member, and worked in a Harlem department store. In 1914, she won “The Most Beautiful Girl in New York City” contest and landed on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
Having caught the public’s attention, and the eye of the famous Florenz Ziegfeld, Olive was hired to perform in his wildly popular Ziegfeld Follies. It wasn’t long before Olive had star billing in the Midnight Frolic, a show at one of Ziegfeld’s favored venues, the Roof Top Theater of the New Amsterdam Hotel. The Frolic catered primarily to well-known male patrons. The girls’ costumes, often just a few strategically arranged balloons, allowed amusement for the gentlemen who would pop the balloons with their cigars. The beauty of Olive Thomas became legendary and she was pursued by a number of wealthy men. She is said to have had “lovely violet-blue eyes, fringed with dark lashes that seemed darker because of the translucent pallor of her skin.”
Known for her beauty, Olive was also known for her wild ways. That free spiritedness became more pronounced when she became involved with Jack Pickford of the famous Pickford family. Alcohol and cocaine became part of her partying repertoire and it proved to be reckless. She had three automobile accidents in one year. After that, she hired a chauffeur.
Screenwriter Frances Marion later remarked, “…I had seen her often at the Pickford home, for she was engaged to Mary’s brother, Jack. Two innocent-looking children, they were the gayest, wildest brats who ever stirred the stardust on Broadway. Both were talented, but they were much more interested in playing the roulette of life than in concentrating on their careers.”
The marriage to Pickford caused much trouble for both parties. For Jack, his high-brow famous family did not approve of Olive’s work in the Frolics, and for Olive, her employer Florenz Ziegfeld accused Jack of taking her away from his entertainment dynasty. There were rumors that Flo and Olive were also romantically involved.
The relationship with Pickford could even have been said to contribute to her sudden death in 1920. After a long night of dancing, drinking, and drugs, Olive and Jack went back to their hotel room. Suddenly, from the bathroom, Jack heard Olive scream, “Oh God!” According to Jack’s account, Olive had accidentally drank from a bottle of something marked “poison”. After a trip to the hospital and having her stomach pumped three times to no avail, Olive Thomas died. The autopsy stated that she died of a mixture of mercury bichloride and alcohol. Mercury bichloride was the prescribed tonic for Jack’s persistant and cronic syphyllis.
Olive Thomas had a short, but successful career. She worked for the Ziegfeld Follies and Midnight Frolic and she starred in over twenty motion pictures. She was also one of the first actresses to be termed “a flapper,” along with Clara Bow, Louise Brooks and Joan Crawford.