Murder in the Mile High City: The First 100 Years, by Linda Wommack, Caxton Press, Caldwell, Idaho, 2016, $17
Murder isn’t always a mystery, but the author, with the help of colleague Linda Jones, has pored over Denver’s first century and chosen more than 40 murders that all have at least a touch of mystery to them. Some of the cases are whodunits, but more often the mystery is in what motivated the killers.
Coloradan Linda Wommack, a regular contributor to Wild West, kicks things off with an 1858 murder rife with gold, greed and revenge if not much mystery (the accused confessed in court and admitted he’d killed to obtain the victim’s gold dust). “From the time of the murder to the trial by the People’s Court to the hanging, all events occurred in just 48 hours,” Wommack writes. “It was the hope and intention of the city officials that this would curb crime in Denver. They couldn’t have been more wrong.”
True. Thus Wommack had countless murders to consider for her “murder she wrote,” which she divides chronologically. The first two parts deal with pre-1900 murders of the Wild West era, though there apparently was no slacking off in the 20th century. The crimes range from an 1865 street shooting of Captain Silas Soule, who had refused to fire on the Cheyenne Indian camp at Sand Creek the previous year, to a wicked stepmother’s 1930 murder of a 10-year-old girl by feeding her rice laced with crushed glass. Yes, it is all grisly business, but enough mystery is involved here to make things interesting.