Monday, March 11, 2013

Book Review: Tell Me, Pretty Maiden by Rhys Bowen (Molly Murphy #7)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Entertaining story that brings a different time to life
Cons: Ending a little weak
The Bottom Line:
So many stories
Leaves ending a little rushed
Still entertaining

Juggling Four Cases with a Broadway Debut

Tell Me, Pretty Maiden is the seventh Molly Murphy mystery by Rhys Bowen. And while these are called mysteries, they aren't mysteries in the traditional sense. Yes, Molly works as a private investigator and always has some case she needs to solve. But Molly immigrated to New York City in the early 1900's, so each book is as much about the historical environment as it is about mystery.

This book opens in December 1902 and finds Molly back from her ill-fated trip to Ireland and trying to juggle multiple cases at once. First, there's the prospective husband she's been hired to tail to make sure he is above board. Then she is hired to protect aging actress Blanch Lovejoy from the ghost haunting the theater where her comeback Broadway play is supposed to debut. And what better way to do that under cover then by joining the chorus, a prospect that frightens and thrilled Molly. Next, she's hired to find out what happened to John Jacob Halsted, a rich Yale student who is accused of robbing friends right before he vanished. Finally, she and beau Daniel Sullivan find a woman unconscious in the snow in Central Park. The woman wasn't dressed for the outdoors, and when she awakes can't speak and doesn't seem to track with anyone.

While Molly is pleased to have so much work to pay her bills, she also can't juggle it all. So she approaches Daniel, a wrongfully suspended police captain, about helping her. But that potential partnership seems to only cause more friction in their relationship. Can the two find a way to work together and successfully solve all these cases?

Because this series is as much about the history as it is the mystery, each book becomes a juggling act. Sometimes, one side seems to win over the other, but usually a strong story develops none the less. Here, the various mysteries seem to wander a bit, especially near the climax, which was a little weak. But my interest never waivered.

It does help that all four cases are well balanced. Author Rhys Bowen managed to juggle all of them without confusing me once. Occasionally, one case bleeds over into the other, but it never gets out of hand.

I have complained in the past about the role coincidence plays in the series. Here, it still plays a part, but Molly once again makes a few deductions on her own, which I liked.

The series has become populated with a host of characters, and they all make appearances here. My favorites are the Molly's quirky neighbors Sid and Gus and their flamboyant friend Ryan. But police detective Mrs. Goodwin also returns, and I was thrilled. All these characters play a part in the story as always, even if it is just a sounding board for Molly. The new characters are well developed as well, and don't suffer from being near the established figures.

But I was really drawn to Molly and Daniel's relationship in this book. To be honest, I've always felt she deserved better, and the book (#5, to be specific) that was supposed to redeem Daniel didn't do enough in my eyes. Yet here I couldn't decide whose side I was one. One minute, I was mad at Daniel, but a few pages later I thought Molly was acting way too childish. I'm not saying I've decided what I think of them yet, but I'm going to try keeping a bit more of an open mind in future books.

This series uses mystery to entertain and give us a glimpse into life 100 years ago. And you'll enjoy every minute of this time machine. While you could jump in here, it is probably best to start at the beginning to fully appreciate Molly's world in Tell Me, Pretty Maiden.

And if you do want to go back to the beginning, here are the Molly Murphy Mysteries in order.

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