In Dublin’s Fair City by Rhys Bowen

dublinThis is the 4th Molly Murphy mystery I’ve read and I continue to be amazed and impressed at how Bowen picks out one historical movement/detail/event from the time and manages to make that the emphasis of the novel. All taking place within the same time, but a different emphasis on each one. In this case Molly has returned to Ireland and becomes involved with the movement to claim Irish independence from the British. (To be honest, I remain very confused about this.) This is the 4th book I’ve read, but it is actually the  6th in the series. I figured I wasn’t missing much by skipping two as I just found out there are now eleven books in the series and I know what happens with the slow romance arc. Books 10 and 11 look especially interesting to me, but I will take my time and read as I want.

A wealthy Broadway producer hires Molly to discreetly go to Ireland and see if she can locate a missing sister.  He and his family had left Ireland during the famine and had to leave behind an ailing baby sister. It’s not known whether she lived or died. Molly is apprehensive about returning to Ireland, where she is wanted for almost killing someone.  Immediately her adventure begins when she boards the ocean liner.  Famous actress Oona asks Molly to swap places with her. Molly agrees, but gets embroiled in problems when Oona’s maid turns up dead. I really liked how the action of the novel was both on the ship and then in Ireland upon her arrival.  It’s also really two mysteries–the dead maid and Oona’s switching, plus Molly’s case of the left behind sister. It was fascinating to see what Ireland was like as Molly visits cities and villages on her case.

Another great historical mystery by Rhys Bowen!

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The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen (Her Royal Spyness #6)

cluesSomewhere along the way I missed #5 in this series and just happened to see this one on the shelf of our little library. Out of order and out of season, but I had to grab it and read it. Once again Lady Georgiana Rannoch finds herself in the midst of a puzzling crime.  In this case it’s a suspicious death every day of her holiday.  Faced with nowhere to go except spending Christmas with her horrid sister in law, Fig, she answers and advertisement for a lady of good social standing to join a house party.  It turns out that the hostess, Lady Hawze-Gorsely, is having guests for a true old fashioned English village Christmas.  It’s very Clue-like, complete with a Colonel, what, what? Fewer details of her royal relatives in this installment, but the lovely details made such a vivid picture in my head of this British village and the time.  Georgie’s mother, grandfather, Noel Coward, and of course, her love interest, Darcy, all manage to happen to spending Christmas in the same little village, so the familiar characters are there.

I thought this was a splendid mystery, was fooled by a red herring, and was very satisfied with the ending. I also liked it that the author included traditional Christmas games and recipes at the end.  I must say, the meals described were wonderful and I can’t believe people weren’t fat as houses back then. Giant teas followed by sumptuous repasts at dinner!

Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen (Her Royal Spyness #4)

royalI really enjoy this series and just happened to see this on the shelf at the library and was delighted to see it existed. My mom tells me that there is an even newer one that I missed, Christmas themed.  In this installment Lady Georgianna is invited (commanded) to represent the royal family at a royal wedding in Transylvania. She is excited about the travel, especially because the bride is having a Parisian dressmaker make her gown. Free food and clothes! Hooray! A few stumbling blocks, though. She needs a maid and ends up with the worst maid ever, Queenie, and is assigned a travel companion (who has her own traveling companion!) who is quite stern.

They finally arrive in Transylvania to find that the castle is extremely remote and terrifying.  Bowen manages to convincingly get all the usual characters to happen to be at the castle too, so we have the fun of meeting new people and having fun folks like Belinda and the dreamy Darcy around. The castle is so spooky that of course Georgie is worried about vampires, and even more so when strange things happen-like waking up in the middle of the night and finding a pale young man standing over her.  We all know a murder will happen (as this is a mystery series) and it does in the form of a nasty man dropping dead at a big formal dinner.  At first presumed to be a heart attack, it is quickly realized to have been cyanide. Because the wedding is a few days away and they want to avoid an international incident, they decide to hide the truth.  And since a convenient giant snow has trapped everyone in the castle, that makes this book a “bottle episode” (in tv parlance!)  So, no one can go anywhere and it stands to reason the killer is among them.  Georgie sets about amateur sleuthing.

I liked this, but not quite as much as the others. Perhaps because I had a hard time getting my head around the time period and location which seemed to clash ancient things and modern things together, plus Romania, Bulgaria, Transylvania-presumably there was actual history there, but it was slightly confusing. Nonetheless, Georgie was as delightful as ever, as were all the other characters. I didn’t care for the vampire worries-that just seemed silly.

 

For the Love of Mike by Rhys Bowen

This is #3 in the Molly Murphy mystery series and I continue to be entranced by the historical detail.  What is really interesting to me is that in the three books in the series they all take place within the same year, yet there is a different emphasis, historically speaking, in each one (and, of course, a different mystery in each.) The first one was fascinating because of the details of Ellis Island and the crowded tenements and slums of the Lower East Side.  In #2 we meet the characters of Greenwich Village-the artists and bohemians at the turn of the century.  And now, in #3, we see the sweatshops of the garment industry filled with poor immigrant girls who are treated terribly and inhumanely.  This volume also reveals even more of the corruption of the government and police force. Those injustices, combined with the sweatshop injustices, make it seem at once impossible that human beings ever thought it was appropriate to behave that way, and also impossible to believe that people were able to fight back and make change happen.
Molly’s romance with police detective Daniel Sullivan is still off-limits, leaving her open to a possible romance with Jacob Singer, a union organizer. She is still close friends with Sid and Gus, the wealthy Bohemian lesbians, and she is finally getting her “find your lost relatives in New York” business off the ground.  When she takes on her first finding a person case it coincides with another case, which had a totally fascinating premise–fashion designs from one company are being sold to another company, who copies the designs and gets them on the market first.  I was really intrigued by the sweatshop-garment industry-ready to wear fashions becoming readily available-fashion design-angle of this case.

Molly continues to be feisty and smart and brave/stupid.  I was delighted when she got to finally tell the wretched Nuala what she really thought of her.  Looking forward to #4, which I already have in the house!

Death of Riley (Molly Murphy #2) by Rhys Bowen

I didn’t do very well with my BoB Reading Challenge this week because I was so caught up in the two books I was reading.  The first was this one, which I had to read immediately upon finishing the first in the series.  Just like in the first book there is tons of historical detail that really bring  the setting to life.  And while Molly is still strong and smart, poking her nose into a mystery determined to solve it, this installment finds her in some very different situations.  She is still dealing with the family she helped bring over from Ireland, including their nasty trashy cousin, Nuala.  And when the story starts she is even more smitten than ever with police captain Daniel Sullivan.  And she is still seeking reputable work, though still sure that what she’d really like to do is help people back in the old country connect with lost loved ones here in America.  Much of that changes fairly quickly when she finds out that Daniel’s affections have strings attached.  She ends up forcing her way into working for a real private investigator, but not long after that the p.i., Paddy Riley, is murdered-not only that she actually sees the murderer.  The police don’t seem very interested in solving the case, but Molly is determined to.  Right there that’s a whole lot going on-but wait! there’s more!  Through investigating and exploring Molly ends up getting to be a part of the Greenwich Village scene (which-who knew there was one that far back?), meeting and associating with bold bohemian types and homosexuals (though it takes her a really long time to figure that out.) Womens’ rights, women drinking, gay men, nude painter models, passionate artists, and anarchists-sheltered Irish Molly learns about it all! I also really enjoyed the final scenes, set at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, NY.  World’s Fairs and these exhibitions really sound so amazing and it’s difficult to imagine something quite like it today.
Anyway,  I very much enjoyed this sequel and look forward to continuing the series (especially because I’d really like to see Molly take on some cases that do involve finding people.) And, I still have to get back to Her Royal Spyness series (I stopped when I lost my library book, but I found and returned it, so can continue on now.)

Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen

I enjoyed the Royal Spyness books so much that I decided to try out another one of her series-the Molly Murphy mysteries.  Just put down book one, and I loved it!

Just like the Royal Spyness books it had wonderful historical detail.  In this case what impressed me so much was the (presumably) accurate and descriptive details of finding passage to New York City as an Irish immigrant, being processed through Ellis Island, and then finding lodging and a job on the Lower East Side. You know, I’m not sure if they ever say exactly what year it is, but I guess turn of the century.  Tammany Hall and corruption play a big part in the story.

Molly is from a village in Ireland, but finds her way to America when she takes a dying woman’s place, so that the woman’s children might be reunited with their father.  Posing as Kathleen O’Connor Molly stays with the children.  They must spend the night on Ellis Island and it’s there that Molly is witness to (though doesn’t realize it at the time) a murderer.  Her one friend from the ship is under suspicion, as is she, and she is determined to find out who the real killer is.

Man, NYC at the turn of the century, for a poor immigrant, sounds horrible.  The descriptions were so vivid I could imagine how awful it would be to be living in a tiny room with several other people, sleeping on the floor, a straight chair, or boards, and washing up at a communal sink, several flights down.  Dirty, crowded, noisy.  I also kept thinking how amazing it was the amount of detective work they could do without the modern conveniences we have (although they did have telephones.)

Molly is funny and smart and resourceful and I look forward to reading more about her and the police captain, Daniel.