Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: For the Love of Mike by Rhys Bowen (Molly Murphy #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Expertly brings the world of 1901 New York City to life.
Cons: Mystery is a little weak in favor of historical drama.
The Bottom Line:
History takes over
But book is still engrossing
A trip to the past

Molly Take on Two Cases

Welcome to the world of New York City in 1901. Your tour guide is Molly Murphy. A recent Irish immigrant, Molly is trying to make a living for herself in a man's world. She has made up her mind to become a private investigator and will do anything she can to make that happen. In the last book, she apprenticed herself to investigator Paddy Riley, only to find him murdered.  Now, she finds herself in more danger in For the Love of Mike.

Molly is bravely trying to continue on with Riley's detective agency. But she finds divorce cases to be completely distasteful. Just as she's resolved to put them behind her, she gets an assignment to go undercover in the sweatshops to find out who is stealing designs from one man and selling them to his competitor. Then she is asked to find a young woman who ran away to America with her boyfriend. Molly is thrilled since finding missing relatives is exactly what she wanted to do all along. Now she just has to figure out how to balance the two since working in the sweatshops means working all day and the streets of 1901 New York City certainly aren't safe for a woman alone at night.

As if her life already weren't complicated enough, she still feels a responsibility to the O'Connor family for her opportunity to come to America in the first place. They are once again living with their cousins, and son Shamey is joining a gang. She feels she needs to figure out a way to get them into a better living environment. Her already complicated love life gets another wrinkle when she meets a Jewish boy who takes a fancy to her.

But most importantly, she can't help but sympathize with the girls she's working with in the garment factories. Even though she needs to keep quiet for her undercover assignment, she feels she must do something to help make their lives better. With a little bit of Irish luck, she just might be able to pull it all off and come out alive on the other end.

This is not a mystery novel with a murder and five suspects. As much time is spent on life in 1901 as on the cases themselves. But, as a result, Molly's world comes vividly to life. I learned so much about every day life during the time period. And the conditions in the sweatshops infuriated me a century later.

That's not to say the book is boring. There is so much going on you can't put the book down. Heck, I read it in little over a day myself. The pace never slackens, and there are quite a few tense scenes. The overall mystery is weak and the solution is a little rushed, but the drama is so real it more than makes up for it.

Molly has really grown on me as a character. Her Irish pride and stubbornness are fun to watch in action. They certainly get her into plenty of scrapes. Yet she is very resourceful. I loved seeing her friends and adopted family again, too. These secondary characters bring a real warmth to the book that is a stark contrast to the dangers Molly faces elsewhere.

Molly herself narrates these books, helping us get to know her better. The writing style is engrossing and pulls the reader through the story.

A word of warning. This book does talk about the ending of the last book, so it's best to read the series in order.

If you're looking for a traditional murder mystery, look elsewhere. If you want a historical mystery that will transport you to another time and place while entertaining you, For the Love of Mike is the book for you.

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