Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Murphy's Law by Rhys Bowen (Molly Murphy #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Molly and her world are brought to vivid life
Cons: Weak plot
The Bottom Line:
Molly's first murder
Immigrate to New York State
And solve it with her

Mysterious Trip Back in Time

This is the first book in author Rhys Bowen's second mystery series. When I read Murphy's Law, I was already hooked on her first series. This time, she sets the story in 1901 New York City.

Molly Murphy has just been given a get out of jail free card. After killing her landowner's son in self-defense, she flees Ireland for London where she meets Kathleen O'Conner. Kathleen is supposed to leave on the next boat for America with her two children but can't because she has tuberculosis. Molly is only too willing to take her place in exchange for watching Kathleen's kids.

Once on the ship, she encounters a rude man and has a very public fight with him. When that man is murdered when they reach Ellis Island, Molly finds herself and a new friend among the chief suspects. Frightened she might be sent back to face the hangman if her illegal status is discovered, she decides to find the real killer on her own. Of course, the problem with that plan is she doesn't know her way around New York City or who she can trust. Can she overcome the odds and clear her name?

Molly herself narrates the story, so we really get to know her. She's a head strong character who leaps first and considers the consequences later. It's fun watching her try to get herself out of several sticky situations. The O'Conner family is sympathetically portrayed. And we meet Daniel, a handsome police captain who seems willing help Molly. He comes across as a good guy in this book who actually cares about doing his job.

The writing is strong. The setting is brought to life, and I enjoyed learning a bit more about the time and place. We learn about the dangers facing a woman alone in New York City as well as daily life for the many poor immigrants of that era.

The problem with the book is the plot. The story starts very slowly since we actually leave Ireland and travel the entire way to America with Molly. Once the mystery does begin, coincidence plays a bigger role then I like. The ending is strong, but this isn't the author's tightest plot by any means.

I'll admit it took me a couple books to warm up to this series, but I am glad I did. Molly has really grown as a character and the historical background is fascination. This series will please historical fiction fans and mystery fans equally. And you really do want to start with Murphy's Law since events in later books are built from this beginning.

In fact, it really is best to read the Molly Murphy Mysteries in order.

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