Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Christmas mystery with plenty of holiday spirit and twists
The Bottom Line:
Filled with mystery, danger
A page turning read
Helping Children at Christmas
Over the past few years, I’ve started saving some Christmas stories to read in December. Of course, it is easy to do that when one of your favorite authors releases a new Christmas book the middle of November. That’s what happened this year since last month, Rhys Bowen released Away in a Manger, the fifteenth in her long running Molly Murphy mystery series. Those looking for a great mystery with Christmas spirit will be delighted with it.
It’s mid-December 1905, and Molly is hoping to enjoy a nice quiet Christmas at home with her family, including her fifteen month only son. Since her husband, NYPD Captain Daniel Sullivan, has been coming home for dinner on time, it looks like this could happen, too.
While out doing some Christmas shopping, Molly and her ward Bridie hear a little girl with a beautiful voice singing Christmas carols. Bridie can’t get the girl, Emmy, out of her head, and insists they do things to help her since she is out in the cold. But on each return visit, Molly learns more about this girl and feels compelled to help her. Her mother left her and her brother Tig with a stranger months ago, saying she’d be back soon. With very little to go on, can Molly figure out how to help them?
Never fear, if you are new to Molly’s world but want to jump into a Christmas book, you could easily do that here. Yes, there are references to a few of the previous books, especially the last couple, but there is nothing that will spoil them. Instead, you’ll find everything you need to understand the characters and their relationships in this book.
And you’ll find Christmas spirit to spare. There is talk of holiday foods and snow and shopping and windows, even a few traditions from 110 years ago that we don’t have any more. It’s exactly the kind of book that will make you want to wrap yourself in a blanket and read long into the night next to your Christmas tree.
Of course, there’s also a good mystery. It might start a tad slowly, but that’s a minor quibble. Molly’s investigation takes us to a solution I never expected and a climax that had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see how it would all play out. In many ways, the book has some bittersweet elements to it, but that is balanced out by the Christmas tones for a richer read.
Fans of the series will be delighted to spend the holiday with all their favorite characters. They are in fine form, and I think we might have seen a shift in one relationship, or at least the potential of a shift. The new characters are wonderful as well and help pull us into the story.
At 250 pages, the book is a little shorter than a normal entry in the series, but that’s not an issue at all. In fact, any longer, and the book would have felt padded.