|Rhys Bowen: Murphy's Law|
Martin's Press (Hardcover), ISBN
Molly, who feels life holds more for her than a peasant's hardships, attracts trouble at every turn in her journey to a better life. First Molly finds a dead man in her kitchen. Knowing she can't prove her innocence, Molly flees to London and boards a ship bound for America.
Serendipity brings her to the right place at the right time, enabling her to assume another woman's identity. Under the name of "Kathleen O'Connor," Molly escorts the woman's two children to their father in New York. In this guise, Molly travels steerage and encounters the difficulties that plagued impoverished immigrants heading for Ellis Island. Once on the island, another man dies, embroiling Molly in an investigation she cannot escape. She desperately needs to find the murderer before the police discover her secrets.
Handsome Detective Daniel Sullivan of the New York Police Department presents a dilemma. He attracts and frightens Molly, tantalizing her with the possibility of a tempting romance, as well as the risk of exposure and deportation.
Bowen's New York City setting becomes a character, further complicating Molly's life. Ethnic factions divide the city into a honeycomb of distinct and separate neighborhoods that shun outsiders. The segregated Irish community dances to the music of the powerful government officials housed in Tammany Hall. It didn't take new immigrants long to learn the steps and subsequent rewards of that particular dance. The mayor, alderman, union bosses and cronies run the city by might and muscle, giving cooperative Irish countrymen unlimited opportunities. Those unwilling to ignore a bit of law breaking as well as head cracking, risk excommunication or death. This forces Molly to make a choice -- uphold her ethics or sell them for Tammany gold.
The author paints a fascinating life for immigrants in this bustling, hostile, beguiling city alive with vice and diversity and violence. Readers will soak up the ambiance and ask for more depth. But alas, the author presents a superficial veneer of historic detail and description.
Bowen's strength lies in the roller coaster mystery ride she writes. Ripe with red herrings, suspense and misdirection, the storyline hangs tough, only slightly weakened by serendipitous happenstance. Yet, readers will embrace future adventures with this admirable and likeable young woman alone in the New World.
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