Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Molly Murphy: Murphy's Law

Our mystery book group is discussing Murphy's Law by Rhys Bowen in the morning.  I read my first copy from the library and have bought all subsequent volumes.  The series is set in New York City at the beginning of the last century.

Molly is on the run from her home after pushing away the landowner's son, who falls and gashes his head.   She makes her way to Dublin and tries to find work, looking over her shoulder every minute for the pursuing police.  Just as they close in on her she is saved by a very ill woman who pretends Molly is her sister.

The woman is dying and though she has passage to America for herself and children, she knows that she will not be allowed to leave the ship in America, if she lives long enough to get there to bring the children to her husband.  She begs Molly to go in her place, making the ship's passage as herself, bringing the young children to her husband who has been trying to make a living in America.

On the ocean voyage Molly gains the attention of a ratty man who is killed.  She comes under suspicion for the grisly crime though there is no real evidence.  Brought before Captain Daniel Sullivan of the New York Police Dept., she struggles to remain logical and composed, not letting her famously sharp tongue get the better of her.  She is certain that her crime in Ireland will catch up with her as well and that she'll be sent back home to an execution.

Desperately coming up with other scenarios and suspects, Molly impresses the Captain who releases her. 

New York City for new immigrants proves to be a hardscrabble life, with people packed into apartments.  Seamus's cousin Nuala instantly dislikes Molly so Molly takes to the winter streets looking for work and still trying to solve the onboard crime.

Always looking for work, always digging deeper into the crime that now crossed two oceans, Molly finds herself learning the ropes quickly and enjoying the company of the captain who reluctantly listens to her theories.

I first read this right after visiting Ireland and have been charmed by Molly and her keen wit and big heart ever since.

Rhys Bowen is very active on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/RhysBowenAuthor  and on her personal blog  http://www.rhysbowen.blogspot.com/   She also writes with seven other popular mystery authors on the Jungle Red Writers blog http://www.rhysbowen.blogspot.com/

You can find links to these on her web site http://rhysbowen.com/

There are three series by Bowen:
The Constable Evans Series

Set in a bucolic Welsh highlands town of Llanfair.  Everyone in the town shares the last name Evans and each title plays on the name as if it were spelled "heaven".

Evans Above
Evan Help Us
Evanly Choirs
Evan and Elle
Evan Can Wait
Evans to Betsy
Evan Only Knows
Evan's Gate
Evan Blessed
Evanly Bodies

I read the first of these long ago, and was not pleased with everyone having the same name for some reason, and perhaps I wasn't fond of the characters.  I saw someone else on Amazon compare these to the Hamish Macbeth series by M. C. Beaton, but setting aside, the character is not the lazy, smirky Hamish character. 

Molly Murphy Mysteries

An excellent historical mystery series set in early New York City.  You get a real flavor for the times.  Molly has terrific side characters to help her solve her mysteries and provide connections in society she would not have as a new immigrant.  The romance between Molly and Daniel Sullivan plays out wonderfully over the series.  Molly's detection skills improve over time enough to get her the attention of some very high placed men in law enforcement.  Over time her past and "The Troubles" in Ireland reach across the ocean to give further depth to this brave young woman.  I buy these and read them as soon as they arrive :)

Murphy's Law
Death of Riley
For the Love of Mike
In Like Flynn
Oh Danny Boy
In Dublin's Fair City
Tell Me Pretty Maiden
In a Gilded Cage
The Last Illusion
The Amersham Rubies
Bless the Bride
The Family Way
City of Darkness and Light (upcoming title)

Her Royal Spyness

Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, 34th in succession for the throne and penniless, often hires herself out as a maid to the wealthy in order to make ends meet.  She is able to do some favors for the Queen herself in her disguise, and learn about 1930s British Society that she may not have access to otherwise. Glamour, romance and a bit of the "caper" film quality to the stories.

Her Royal Spyness
A Royal Pain
Royal Flush
Royal Blood
Naughty in Nice

If you enjoyed the Molly Murphy series, I highly recommend

Victoria Thompson's Gaslight Mysteries

Set at about the same time period as Molly in New York City, Sarah Brandt's adventures as a midwife in the lower quarters of the city contrast with her being the daughter of one of New York's wealthiest men.    http://victoriathompson.homestead.com/ 

Shirley Tallman's  Sarah Woolsen Mysteries take place in 1880's San Francisco.  Sarah comes from a family of lawyers and is one herself, striving to find employ as the first woman lawyer in the city.  She is absolutely committed to being successful in her career.  The city of San Francisco at that time (and all times!) is exciting, as are her adventures.  http://shirleytallman.com/

The first of these is:

Murder on Nob Hill

Kathy Lynn Emerson's Diana Spaulding Mysteries

Set in 1880s New York Diana is a reporter for a small paper in a time when "yellow journalism" was rampant and papers vied to write the most outrageous stories possible.   I think there are only three of these and Emerson writes a more well known series the Face Down Mystery series set in 16th century England.    http://www.kathylynnemerson.com/

Dianne Day's Fremont Jones Mysteries beginning with The Strange Files of Fremont Jones   http://www.avadianneday.com/books.html     Fremont is able to make a business for herself and solve mysteries as a capable "type-writer" using the new machine in early 1900s San Francisco.  Richly immersive of that city and the times.

Further reading!

19th Mysteries in Series from Williamsburg Regional Library

Historical Mysteries with Women Sleuths

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