US Marshal Mason Sadler has a great hustle going on with the vivacious and lovely Belle Dubois, the madam of the Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. She keeps the outlaws occupied until he conveniently shows up to arrest them after which she and Mason split the reward.
Their business arrangement is going rather well until the wealthy inventor and archaeologist Henry Mitchell decides to make a play for Belle's attention and affection. After all, he's single while Mason is stuck in a marriage to a woman who prefers laudanum to marital bliss. But does Henry really desire Belle or is his interest a deflection from his true intentions, for gold from the Seven Cities of Cibola has been discovered in the mining hills of Tombstone. Two men desperately want to keep the discovery a secret -- Caleb, the old miner who found the treasure, and Henry who has spent the past several years hunting for it. Unfortunately for Caleb, Henry has no qualms about using whatever means necessary to take what he wants, even if it means murder and kidnapping. Regrettably for Belle, she eventually gets in the way. With the help of two Chiricahua machinists, Mason sets out to stop Henry's escape and rescue Belle. But everyone has failed to take into consideration two dead conquistadors who are not quite ready to part with the gold.
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"May we always find what we look for."
The goldrush is on and Tombstone is busy. The beautiful Belle runs the only entertainment in town and she and the sheriff have a nice little sideline earner collecting bounties. Meanwhile, two men have staked claims near to each other, one the reclusive old timer, a real loser, who just about makes enough from his claim to keep body and soul together, and the other a newcomer to the town, a renowned archeologist looking for artifacts. But neither is quite what he seems.
An almost classic western setting apart from the steampunk influence, with flying machines and a woodburning car, this is a fun story, with great characterisations. Lots of dastardly deeds, too. Very colourful.
The narration is also good, a very pleasantly voiced Steve Wannell bringing life to the characters with individualistic personalities. His reading of the text was also well paced and clear. Just a downturn in cadence at the end of many sentences began, after a while, to irritate this listener - only slight but still a distraction. Otherwise, an excellent performance.
My thanks to the rights holder of Fools Gold, who freely gifted me with a complimentary copy of Fools Gold, via Audiobook Boom. Good fun and, for anyone looking for a light, unusual and character-filled Western, well worth reading.
- Norma Miles