Updated: Nov 19, 2020
by Vali Benson
In Blood and Silver, we meet twelve-year old Carissa as she travels from San Francisco to the boom toom of Tombstone, Arizona in the late 19th Century with her drug-addled Mother, brutal brothel madam, Miss Lucille and two of Miss Lucille’s ‘girls’. Carissa can see no way out of her bleak existence until they settle in Tombstone where her resourcefulness and spirit catch the eye of China Mary, who unofficially controls everything and everyone in the town….
I thought Blood and Silver was a lovely read which is a strange adjective to use as parts of the novel are quite dark. But, the narrative flowed; it was hard to put down and I really enjoyed the story. It is clear that Ms Benson has a real passion for both the age and setting and consequently, you feel immersed in Tombstone life. I could almost hear the carriage wheels rattling through the dirt and dust of the town. There is a depth of research that has been carefully and subtly woven through the plot and I thought the Author’s Note regarding the town and its history was a nice, consolidating touch.
All the characters were well-realised especially China Mary who Ms Benson has a lot of fun with and who, as a character, was given just enough cultural tropes without becoming stereotypical. Ms Benson has a really good ear for the Chinese dialogue and I could definitely see a whole series of ‘Tombstone Tales’ with China Mary at the forefront which I would not hesitate to read. Miss Lucille is a decidedly nasty piece of work and, to that end, I thought her comeuppance could have been extended – I wanted to see her suffer more! I found the description of Lisette’s downfall really quite heartrending in an otherwise fairly bouncy narrative. Aside from Lisette’s journey out of drug addiction, we have a side plot involving a hidden seam of silver which dovetailed neatly with the happy ending. It could be said that it’s all a bit too happy and convenient at the conclusion but this little novel is pure escapism so I should not be too cynical. Having said that, I did think it could have been a little darker and more realised in places. It would have been interesting to have read a different point of view in a few chapters, maybe Lisette’s, just to give a touch more emotional depth.
I found Blood and Silver to be a cracking read; the easy tempo belies a well-crafted and researched story that has broad appeal. Highly recommended. Buy from: