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On the eve of the heated presidential election of 1892, Miss Hattie Davish arrives in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a scenic resort town where those without the scent of whiskey on their breath have the plight of temperance on their tongues. Summoned for her ...
On the eve of the heated presidential election of 1892, Miss Hattie Davish arrives in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a scenic resort town where those without the scent of whiskey on their breath have the plight of temperance on their tongues. Summoned for her services as a private secretary, Hattie is looking forward to exploring the hills, indulging her penchant for botany--and getting to know the town's handsome doctor. But it's hard to get her job done with her employer nowhere to be found. . .
An army of unassuming women wielding hatchets have descended on the quiet Ozark village, destroying every saloon in their path--and leaving more than a few enemies in their wake. So when their beloved leader, Mother Trevelyan, is murdered, it's easy to point fingers. Now that she's working for a dead woman, Hattie turns to her trusty typewriter to get to the truth. And as she follows a trail of cryptic death threats, she'll come face to face with a killer far more dangerous than the Demon Rum. . .
"A wonderful read from a welcome addition to the genre. This one shouldn't be missed--it has it all!" --Emily Brightwell
Who hath wounds without a cause?
He who breaks God's holy laws;
He who scorns the Lord divine,
While he tarries at the wine.
Who hath redness at the eyes?
Who brings poverty and sighs?
Unto homes almost divine,
While he tarries at the wine?
Touch not, taste not, handle not:
Drink will make the dark, dark blot,
Like an adder it will sting,
And at last to ruin bring,
They who tarry at the drink.
I fought my way through the marchers and settled against a pillar on the porch of a dry goods store. Several men, reeking of whiskey, leaned against the shuttered store window, the gaslight flickering on their shadowed faces. A gang of children, with their feet dangling over the side, lined up along the porch with their backs to me, as if ready to watch a circus parade. All eyes were directed at a squat, unpainted, wooden one-story building across the street, the Cavern Saloon. A small solitary female figure, as if on cue, appeared in a window, waving a hatchet above her head from inside the saloon. The barroom's sign, a yellow geyser of foaming ale, swung above the door in counterpoint to the woman's waving arm. My first impression of the scene had been right; the world had gone topsy-turvy.
"Home wrecker!" she screamed as she brought the hatchet down.
The windowpane exploded outward, raining glass in all directions. Instinctively I threw up my hands. The dogs scattered in opposite directions, one with two links of sausage dangling from its mouth. A bystander dropped into the dirt screaming, covering her face. A man in a top hat raced over to her aid.
What am I doing here? I wondered why I had ever left the comfort and luxury of my room. I never should've come down here when I heard that shout of "fire."
A shouting contest between the marching women and several bystanders began as the figure in the window was grabbed by other larger silhouettes and lifted from view. They reappeared moments later in the doorway. It was almost comical. Three men between them carried a nymph of a woman, and still she had an arm free with which she whacked her assailants with a cane.
"Get the police," one of the men shouted.
They made the mistake of setting her down. With a hard rap on one man's head and another on a second man's knee, the tiny woman freed herself and ran back into the saloon.
"Get out of here, you crazy woman!" someone shouted from within.
She reappeared moments later in the doorway, with a lighted lamp above her head.
"The righteous will prevail," she proclaimed. "Evil will burn eternal."
"She isn't really going to do it, is she?" I said out loud to no one in particular. Several worried faces nodded in reply.
There was a collective hush in the instant before the woman smashed the lamp to the floor and disappeared in a plume of smoke. As men streamed into the saloon to contain the rising flames, two women, dressed entirely in sky blue, emerged from inside. They looked appalling. Brown and yellow splotches covered their dresses. One woman's sleeve had been rent off at the shoulder; the other's hem dragged behind her. Each carried a hatchet in one hand and an arm of the tiny window-smashing arsonist in the other, dragging her from the burning building and across the street. A third woman in blue raced from the saloon and joined them.
Is that the woman I met this afternoon? It couldn't be.
For several minutes, my view was obscured by the temperance supporters who gathered around the women, shaking hands and patting each other on the back. Who is this woman at the center of the chaos and destruction? What kind of person goes around vandalizing saloons at night? I pressed into the crowd for a better look.
She wasn't what I expected. Guarded on all sides by her associates in blue, she loomed large for her petite frame, wearing a black dress and black turban hat with veil netting that had ripped in two places, and she was old, very old, with white hair and skin that was wrinkled and sun-spotted. Her high-necked collar accentuated a mark on her face, either a birthmark or smoke ashes, which extended from her right ear across her entire cheek. She gasped for breath, and her knuckles were white from clenching her cane. Her stooping shoulders gave the impression that her body was frail, but we were all witnesses to that deception. She looked up and caught me gaping at her. Her face was flushed and her eyes were piercing blue, but she seemed dazed and unable to look me in the eyes for long. She wasn't like any old woman I'd ever met before.
"It's the police," someone shouted.
Whistles blew as a police wagon parted the people milling about in the street. Two of the younger women immediately lifted the old woman easily to her feet. One of them grabbed my arm briefly for support. Only then did I realize, to my horror, that the brown splotches on the women's dresses were blood.
"We've got to get Mother Trevelyan to safety," one of the women in blue said to her companions.
I nearly shouted after them that there must be some mistake. I watched, aghast, as three bedraggled figures in blue escorted my new employer down the street.
I gazed up into the shadows towering above at the sweet gum and oak-covered hillsides, at the colorful leaves still tenaciously clinging to the branches, at rocky outcrops promising a few new specimens for my collection. I was already looking forward to my first hike. But that would have to wait. Brimming with the excitement and anticipation that always came with a new engagement, I adjusted my gloves, brushed my new suit for soot, straightened my new bonnet, and stepped off the platform.
Weaving through the flurry of one-horse gigs, buggies, and buckboards loaded with crates and burlap sacks that crammed the depot yard, I made my way toward the public omnibus. As I waited in line for the bus, I pulled out my book, opening it to chapter 3: Wild flowers and where they grow. I'd read two pages on the family Compositae when a humped old woman in an old-fashioned black bonnet interrupted me.
"Are you here for the springs?"
"The springs? What springs?"
"What springs?" The old woman cackled, poking me with the walking stick she clutched between two knotted hands. "Oh, my, that's clever, miss, this being Eureka Springs and all. Yes, very funny." She stopped laughing when she realized I hadn't been joking. "Oh, you really aren't here for the springs, then, are you?"
"No, I'm sorry. I'm not. Are you?"
"Oh, my, yes."
She pointed to a man at the end of the line, leaning heavily on a crutch, and to the woman in line ahead of me, wearing a very fashionable small bonnet of blue felt with a green velvet bow tied under the chin. I fluffed the ostrich feathers on my straw hat self-consciously while staring at hers in envy. "Most of us here are," the old woman said. "I've heard the waters can cure anything."
That explained the invalids I saw. They all thought they'd be cured by drinking water. The idea made me a bit uneasy.
"I've been plagued by the summer-complaint, and here it is November." The old woman stared at my face, then down at the book in my hands. "You should try it. The waters are also known for helping folks relax."
I closed my book. "Thank you, but like I said, I'm not here for the springs."
"Then maybe you're here for the temperance rally?" the old woman said.
"I'm here for the springs," a raspy voice behind me said. We both turned toward the lady in the blue felt hat. I could now see she wore a patch over her left eye. Poor woman, I thought. And to think I was jealous of her hat.
"Oh yes, I'm blind in this eye. It's completely crusted over." She pointed to the patch.
Her hand trembled from the effort. "An uncle had the same condition, but worse. Both eyes were glued shut. He looked like a sea creature, as if his eyelashes were encrusted in rime and barnacles." She shivered slightly. "But he stayed three months, used Crescent, Johnson, and Oil water, and came back a cured man."
"Will you also be attending the ladies' temperance convention, then?" The old woman pointed to a button on the blinded lady's lapel. With a sky blue background, which I would later learn was the official color of the American Women's Temperance Coalition, representing purity and heaven, the button read AWTC in black capital letters. "I'm not a member, but I've timed my visit here in hopes of attending a few meetings and the Saturday-night rally."
"I am a member." Crimson rising in her cheeks, the blinded woman lowered her voice. "I'm ashamed to admit it, though, since I'd forgotten all about the temperance convention until I read about Mrs. Trevelyan in this morning's newspaper. They can slander her all they want, but that there's a God-fearing woman for you."
"Amen to that," the old woman exclaimed. "Someone on the train read me that article in the Cassville paper. That's the third saloon smashed in a month. I hope I catch a glimpse of her at the rally. You don't think the police will prevent her from attending, do you?"
Slander? Police? And I thought working for Captain Amsterdam was a challenge.
"You're not suggesting that Mrs. Trevelyan ...?" I said.
"Don't worry; the righteous ... will ... prevail."
The blinded lady faltered in her reply as her attention was drawn to a black man in a rumpled floppy felt hat who stomped in our direction. He deftly avoided the infirm as he navigated the crowd.
"You Hattie Davish?" he demanded.
"Yes, I'm Miss Davish."
"I've a wagon waiting."
"Thank you, but I'll ride the bus." As I turned toward the approaching omnibus, the man stepped in front of me, blocking my way. "Excuse me," I said, trying to keep the alarm out of my voice.
"No, I'm to take you to the Arcadia," the man said as he grabbed my suitcases and hatboxes.
"Not this," I exclaimed, clasping the handle as he attempted to yank my typewriter case away from me. People in line turned to see what the commotion was.
"Are you all right, miss?" the old woman asked.
"Mrs. Trevelyan arranged it," the man said. "Now, if you don't mind?" He motioned for me to follow him.
I nodded tentatively to the old woman. After a quick glance over my shoulder at the people boarding the omnibus, wishing I were among them, I followed the man to a four-passenger depot wagon, parked behind a tally-ho coach. Hitched to four horses, the tally-ho carried at least a dozen animated women. The driver flung my luggage onto the top of the wagon. He stood by as I clambered into the vacant passenger compartment, then climbed into the driver's seat in front of me, all the while scowling at the boisterous women in the overloaded tally-ho.
"Every year there's more of you anti-liquor ladies." He turned his head and spat. "Like a horde of deer flies, never leaving an honest fellow alone. Why do y'all have to come here, stirring up trouble, anyway?"
"You're mistaken," I said. "I'm not an 'anti-liquor lady.'"
"Yeah, well ..." The driver spat again, and then sat quietly for a moment, a crease forming on his brow. "But, ah, if I'm picking you up for that Mrs. Trevelyan, I thought ..."
"Mrs. Trevelyan is my new employer," I said, tapping on the case in my lap. "I've never even met her."
The wagon lurched forward and we started toward town. Unlike cities that have convenient downtown locations, the train depot in Eureka Springs was situated at the far northeast corner of town, the closest parcel of flat ground the Eureka Springs Railway Company could find. Several minutes of silence had passed when the driver, pointing with his thumb behind him, said, "Ah, sorry about that there, ma'am."
His reaction to Mrs. Trevelyan and the other temperance ladies had added to my rising anxiety, so I was grateful to clear the air. I leaned forward and extended my hand. "Apology accepted, Mr....?"
He switched the reins to return my handshake. "It's Thomas."
The wagon passed a cluster of people gathered near a curving rock wall. I craned my neck to look back. "Was that one of the springs, Thomas?"
He nodded but was distracted. I was still leaning out the window when the driver started shaking his head. "I hate to be the one to tell you this, ma'am. I mean, it's too bad you had to come all this way to learn the truth."
"What truth, Thomas? I don't understand." I pulled back from the window.
"Working folks can't expect a lot from the likes of them. Someone might've had the common decency to warn you." Warn me? About what? "They could've wired you so you didn't have to waste your time."
"But I did receive a telegram from Mrs. Trevelyan, two days ago. See? Here it is." I pulled it from my handbag and read its contents for the third time.
THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY NUMBER 23 SENT BY HF REC'D BY DC CHECK 20 paid RECEIVED at No. 14 Broadway, Kansas City, MO Nov 4 1892
Dated: Eureka Springs, AR 11:14am
To: H Davish Larson Boarding House Kansas City
Your services required recommended by Windom-Greene expect you Sunday on four ten all arranged Mrs. E. Trevelyan
"So here I am, at the exact time and place that she requested." Thomas brought the depot wagon to a sudden halt. As I was thrown forward, I grabbed my typewriter case so it didn't fly off my lap.
"But don't you see, ma'am," he said, twisting back to face me. "The lady might not even be here anymore. And she sure ain't gonna need a secretary where she's going."
Thomas's comment brought back the conversation I was having at the depot before he arrived. I wished I'd had a chance to question the women in line about Mrs. Trevelyan. They seemed to know more than I did.
"Then why did she hire me and tell me to meet her here?" I asked.
Thomas spat over the side of the wagon, barely missing the flanks of the tally-ho's lead horse as it pulled abreast of our wagon. The tally-ho's driver scowled at Thomas, but the temperance women, oblivious to the incident, continued to sing and laugh and joke. Several women waved as the tally-ho took the hill before us. I waved back, some of my initial exhilaration returning.
"That's my point, ma'am," Thomas said. "You shouldn't have come in the first place."
"At least you get to stay at the Arcadia."
Thomas, who wouldn't say another word about Mrs. Trevelyan, didn't have the same reservation about describing the hotel he worked for. According to him, the dining room served the finest food, the baths were unsurpassed, the service was renowned. They included a daily supply of bottled water, from any spring in town, on demand.
"... and there's no less than three different springs being pumped into the bathing rooms. Of course there's steam heat in every room. Even the servants' quarters have electric lighting and indoor plumbing; the whole works," he said. "There are dozens of hotels and boarding houses in town, ma'am, but the Arcadia is the best. And it's not just me saying so. I've heard it's as good as any of those fancy hotels out East."
Excerpted from A LACK OF TEMPERANCE by ANNA LOAN-WILSEY Copyright © 2012 by Anna Loan-Wilsey. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted December 17, 2012
Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers Favorite
It is Victorian times and "lady typewriter" (secretary in modern times), Hattie Davish, arrives in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to work for Mother Trevelyn, the head of the American Women's Temperance Coalition. The AWCT is comprised of women who wish to rid alcohol from homes and ban its public sales. Now here in Eureka Springs, which is known for its sixty springs whose mineral waters promise cures for many ailments, the women of AWTC are in full swing, wearing their sky-blue color that represents purity and heaven, singing their theme song and smashing the windows of local bars serving alcohol. Local non-drinking bar owner, George Shulman, is furious with the AWTC but is he responsible as Mother Trevelyn turns up missing and then dead, found in a trunk of clothing she was giving to charity? Hattie is told that her hotel bill has been paid for a week but her services are no longer required by the AWTC once she deals with Mother Trevelyn's correspondence that includes death threats and references to blackmail and murder. Then Hattie is attacked at nighttime in an alley, a time of day when no respectable woman back then was to be wandering about town. What on earth is going on in this little Ozark community?
"A Lack of Temperance" is a delightfully well-written mystery set in Victorian times that will delight whodunit fans everywhere. Hattie Davish is more than believable as a main character and in "A Lack of Temperance", local doctor Walter Grice, Irish hotel maid Mary Flanagan, AWTC members Cordelia Angelwood and Josephine Piers, bar owner George Shulman, the mysterious John Martin, the elderly Shaw sisters Lizzie and Lucy, and all other characters add well to the plot line. Mystery readers everywhere will love "A Lack of Temperance", some will recall Carrie Nation and her crew of long ago bar wreckers, and all will eagerly await more Hattie Davish stories from Anna Loan-Wilsey.
Posted November 14, 2012
A great historical mystery period piece. Hattie Davish is adorable and formidable! I love her "only have a typewriter" persona. She's one to be reckoned with. Can't wait to read more about her and this timeframe.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.