Hardcover: 293 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (March 4, 2008)
Genre: crime mystery, historical fiction
Target audience: adults
Starting this one I didn’t know it was a part of a highly successful series, starring the Irish immigrant PI, Molly Murphy. Still, I didn’t have problems with catching up – apparently it is a series of books you can jump into and get your bearings after several pages without being constantly told boring backstories.
December 1902, New York City. Molly is back from her trip to Ireland and her business is booming – almost at once she must juggle multiple cases. Well, she has no choice, she has to accept the orders as they are coming is she wants to earn her living.
First, she must check the background of a prospective husband, a young man named Leon Roth – his fiancée’s family of rich Jews would like to know what kind of man he really is. Then Molly and her beau, a suspended police captain, Daniel Sullivan, find a near-dead girl clad only in a flimsy white dress in a snowdrift. Molly decides to help poor creature, as the girl seems to be deeply traumatized – she can’t communicate with the outside world and, apparently, has no family to take care of her. Meanwhile a great vaudeville star, Blanche Lovejoy, hires Molly seeking protection against a mysterious ghost, haunting a theater where her comeback Broadway play is supposed to debut. If it wasn’t enough, an elderly acquaintance of Molly, would like her to find out what happened to John Jacob Halsted, a rich Yale student, accused of robbing friends right before he vanished.
Are these cases somehow connected? As the narration progresses you find that indeed, they are and the help of Daniel becomes indispensable.
What I liked:
The era and the place of narration. It was the same as in the case of The Alienist by Caleb Carr, a book I greatly enjoyed. Bowen’s portrayal of the early twentieth century can almost make you feel as though you are shivering in the slushy streets of New York.
This book is as much about the history as it is about the mystery – it is really well-balanced here. Occasionally, the plot wanders, but every one of those details becomes an important part of the story sooner or later. Sometimes the mystery is secondary to the evolvement of characters and the ordinary discourse of life that binds them.
Molly is a feisty Irishwoman who happens to have a lot of character and invention along with a tender heart. I liked her a lot, and her two women friends, Sid and Gus, who wonderfully dress up the dialogue.
What I didn’t like:
Romance. More precisely, I don’t like Molly’s paramour, Daniel. For someone who supposedly loves Molly dearly, he simply does not understand and appreciate her ENOUGH. More often than not he treats her efforts to be an independent woman as a mere whim and it seems he is rarely there when she needs a strong arm and an open head the most. It got on my nerves after a while. I don’t want them together but it seems they will end up together. Oh well – a small fly in the ointment I can live with.
Final verdict with a list
I liked this one very much and I am willing to continue reading the series to see what will happen to Molly. If you like historical fiction with mystery and a bit of romance, it is something for you. For those who prefer to start a series properly, not jumping in the middle of things, here is the list of all the books with different awards they won.
Murphy’s Law (2001)
2001 Agatha Award for Best Novel
Finalist 2002 Mary Higgins Clark Award
Death of Riley (2002)
Finalist 2002 Agatha Award for Best Novel
For the Love of Mike (2003)
2004 Anthony Award for Best Historical Novel
Finalist 2004 Macavity Award for Best Novel
In Like Flynn (2005)
Finalist 2006 Macavity Award for Best Historical Novel
Oh Danny Boy (2006)
2007 Macavity Award for Best Historical Novel
Finalist 2007 Barry Award for Best Novel
In Dublin’s Fair City (2007)
Tell Me, Pretty Maiden (2008)
Finalist 2009 Bruce Alexander Award
In a Gilded Cage (2009)
Finalist 2010 Bruce Alexander Award
The Last Illusion (2010)