On Christmas Day in 1893 all the people in the gold-mining, mountain town of Abandon, Colorado vanished, leaving behind food laden tables and all their belongings. What can have happened to everyone?
Jump ahead to 2009. A small group of adventurers - toting food, tents and supplies - embarks for the ghost town of Abandon, to try to uncover what happened all those years ago. The expedition consists of Lawrence Kendall - a historian/history professor; Lawrence's estranged daughter Abigail Foster - a freelance journalist; an older married couple who study and photograph paranormal phenomena; and two mountain guides. Winter weather is rapidly approaching and this is the group's last chance to get to Abandon until next year....so they're very determined to make the climb despite a looming snowstorm.
The story jumps back and forth between events that occurred in 1893 and what's happening in 2009.
In 1893, times were tough in Abandon. The mines were almost tapped out and residents were struggling to survive. One couple ate scraps for weeks so their daughter could have a new doll for Christmas, some people wore layers of old rags to keep warm, and most homes were bare bones and uncomfortable.
Like many 'Old West' towns, Abandon had its share of gamblers, grifters, and whores.....as well as a resident preacher and a man reputed to have a big stash of gold bars. Given the situation - and human nature - some yobbos made a grab for the treasure. The gold stash, however, seems to have disappeared along with the citizens of Abandon.
Switch to 2009 and trouble starts early in the trip up the mountain. The climbers are set upon by gun-toting ruffians who think Lawrence knows how to find the missing gold - and they're willing to torture him and his daughter to get the information. Imagine someone threatening to pop out your eyeball! Horrific! The following events eerily parallel some things that occurred in Abandon in 1893.
The gold is the 'mcguffin' that drives the dual stories, which are essentially two adventure tales. Both narratives have plenty of chasing, shooting, stabbing, and double dealing. There are also harrowing scenes of characters trudging through snow in blizzard conditions for miles and miles. Loads of gruesome things happen, including amputations and long drawn-out deaths that will (unfortunately) stick in my mind for a long time.
The story has a lot of characters, all of which are well-written and memorable. In old Abandon these include: a pretty barkeep who's sentenced to hang - but keeps working till then; the drunk deputy who guards her; a vicious killer and his stammering dead-shot sidekick; an abandoned wife who - having become demented - does nothing but sit in the window year after year waiting for her husband; and to top it off - a six-year-old assassin. The 2009 characters are less colorful, but include a couple of ex-soldiers with remarkable skills. To say more would ruin some surprises.
In the end, this is a cautionary tale about insanity, religious zeolatry, and bottomless greed.
I thought the book was okay but adventure stories like this aren't my favorites. Readers who like to read about risky escapades though - and don't mind a lot of blood and gore - would probably like this book.