Gold Under Ice is Carol Buchanan’s second novel based on the Vigilantes of Montana. Descended from Montana pioneers and homesteaders, Carol is a nonfiction writer and student of Montana history who turned to historical fiction in God’s Thunderbolt, The Vigilantes of Montana, which won the 2009 Western Writers of America Spur award for Best First Novel.
Gold Under Ice continues the story of frontier attorney Daniel Stark, who rescues a man from drowning only to learn that his autocratic grandfather sent the man to bring him back to New York with gold to pay his family’s debt. But Dan does not have enough gold to rescue the family from their financial burden. If he joins the gold traders, he could make enough to pay the debt and secure his family’s future. Or he could lose everything and be branded a traitor to the Union.
This story grabbed me on the first page and kept my nose between its pages until I devoured the last word. It is a quality book—from the cover photo to Carol’s excellent writing. It is obviously well-researched and well-written. Carol weaves in Civil War history, how gold is traded and its parallels to gambling in an interesting and captivating way.
Her characters are well-developed, with distinct, clear voices, and relationships are strongly drawn. Dan’s dilemma—his duty to his family back home in New York versus his new family on the frontier—catches at the reader’s heartstrings and raises the stakes for our hero. Carol builds the conflict with Dan’s strong, patriarch grandfather as well as the elements, the lawless frontier and basic survival.