Dead Men (usually) Tell No Tales: Pirates and a Secret in the Wall

Mar 16, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Ann Parker

Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win a copy of The Secret in the Wall, and a link to order it from Amazon.

Who doesn’t perk up at the mention of a rollicking good tale of pirates, hidden treasure, and high-seas high jinks and daring-do? In The Secret in the Wall, the newest book of my Silver Rush historical series set in early 1882 San Francisco, pirates are a primary motivator for one of my continuing characters, Antonia Gizzi, to start sleuthing seriously. Antonia, the young ward of my protagonist Inez Stannert, has been known to muddle about and get in trouble in some of my earlier books. In this eighth book of the series, Antonia steps out of her position as “second fiddle” to Inez and gets an equal role in solving the mystery—we can thank her well-documented obsession with pirates and pirate tales for that!

Ever since Inez and Antonia arrived in San Francisco to make a new life for themselves in my fifth book, A Dying Note, Antonia has been an avid reader of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. This classic novel of buried treasure, pirates, and seafaring adventure first made its appearance in 1881–1882 as a serialized story in the penny weekly magazine Young Folks. The tale of Long John Silver, Jim Hawkins, and Billy Bones has captivated Antonia to the point where she is now intrigued by all things of the sea. On her way home from school, she likes to take the long way, along the San Francisco waterfront where ships come in from faraway places, such as Hawaii and the Orient. When her everyday life seems particularly dreary, Antonia daydreams about being a pirate (or the daughter of one) and escaping from her current “civilized” life of school, manners, chores, and what she views as a pretty constrained future for her as a grownup.

Billy Bones from the 1911 edition of Treasure Island, painting by N. C. Wyeth – Transferred from en.wikisource to Commons by Billinghurst using CommonsHelper. also: [1], Public Domain,

In The Secret in the Wall, all of Antonia’s wishful imaginings come to the fore very quickly. When the story opens, Inez has formed a business partnership with boardinghouse-owner Moira Krause to buy the empty residence adjoining Moira’s boardinghouse. Moira wants to expand her business into the empty building, and Inez, a nineteenth-century “angel investor,” agrees to provide financial backing for this venture. A small ceremony is set in the recently acquired house with the goal of breaking through the common wall to make a passageway between the two residences. The gathering includes Inez and Antonia, Moira and her young daughter Charlotte, and Moira’s boarders. When the wall is breeched, to everyone’s surprise, the long-enclosed space holds more than cobwebs and dust: a skeleton, complete with glass eye, and a bag of gold tumble out as well.

Jim Hawkins and Israel Hands from the 1911 edition of “Treasure Island”, painting by N. C. Wyeth – Image was originally posted to Flickr as N.C. Wyeth, Public Domain,

Most of those present are horrified. But not Antonia.

You can probably guess what she thinks when the booty and the body appear and the glass eye rolls across the floor: Pirates!

As Inez and Moira focus on determining who the dead man is and who gets to keep the gold, Antonia and Charlotte make a pact. The two girls put their heads together and secretly plot an expedition into the now off-limits house because they are certain that the one bag of gold isn’t the only secret in the wall…

Quick disclaimer: Antonia’s fantasies to the contrary, no living, breathing pirates lurked in 1882 San Francisco. In fact, as far as I can tell from my research, the only historical pirate attack in California occurred at the end of 1818. In November, Frenchman Hippolyte de Bouchard raided the Presidio of Monterey. A few weeks later, he attacked Mission San Juan Capistrano. All this takes place far south and long before the setting for The Secret in the Wall.

To enter to win a copy of The Secret in the Wall, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “wall,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 26, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode goes up next week.

You can use this link to purchase the latest book in the series or click here. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the Amazon link:

Ann Parker is a science writer by day and fiction writer at night. Her award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series is set in the 1880s U.S. West and features Inez Stannert—a woman with a mysterious past, a complicated present, and an uncertain future—and more recently, her recalcitrant ward, Antonia Gizzi. Kirkus Reviews calls The Secret in the Wall “a delight to read.” The book is also a Historical Novel Society Editors’ Choice. For more about Ann and her books, visit

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Haven’t read a swashbuckling story in a long time.
    Sounds good. thanks. txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

    • Hello Marylouh! It was great fun to write the sections from Antonia’s point-of-view and see where her pirate imaginings would take her. (They take her straight into trouble, of course!) Thanks for your comment!

    • I love the premise here! I hadn’t heard of this series before, one to check out for sure.

      • Hi Alicia! If you like to start at the beginning of a series, the first book is SILVER LIES. But I write all the books to “stand alone,” so if you want to start with THE SECRET IN THE WALL, by all means, please do! 🙂

  2. Maybe no pirates, but the Barbary coast was certainly no safe place to be. Count me in the drawing!

    • Hello Glen+Davis! You’ve got that right! 🙂 Thanks for your comment and for entering the drawing!

  3. The Secret in the Wall sounds like a fun and entertaining book that I would enjoy reading!

    • Hi Nancy! I hope you enjoy it, should you get a chance to check it out. I definitely had fun writing it. 🙂

  4. This sounds great! I would love a chance to win! Claire.denning.11 at gmail

    • Hi Claire! Thanks for stopping by, leaving a comment, and entering the raffle! 🙂

  5. “The Secret In The Wall” sounds amazing. Can’t wait to read.

    • Hello Diannekc! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Here’s hoping that, should you get a chance to pick up the book, you find it a fun read!

    • Hi Jaime! Thanks for commenting. Good luck on the drawing!

    • Hi Teresa! Glad you think so! And good luck w/the drawing!

  6. We have a winner!


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