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Historical Mysteries

Murphy's Law, Rhys Bowen, St. Martin's Minotaur, $6.50.

I have been dying to read this book since it came out - but as it sells briskly I haven't had the chance. Fortunately or unfortunately February was very slow and I was able to pick it up. It's a wonderful book - Bowen is an old fashioned storyteller in the best sense of the word - she has a great story to tell, with a wonderful character at its center, and she doesn't let much get in the way of her clear voice telling it. Each chapter even has a little cliffhanger - shades of Nancy Drew!

This is the first (in what I hope will be a very long) series featuring Irish immigrant Molly Murphy, who escapes her village after committing a crime and through one set of circumstances after another ends up on a boat to America impersonating another woman and shepherding her children across the Atlantic to a father they haven't seen in three years. That would do it for many writers, but for Bowen, that's just a precis of the first three or four chapters.

Molly's journey across the pond and her journey through Ellis Island - a not well known one, to me, at least - are fascinating. When a fellow passenger is murdered while Molly and the children are waiting to get off the island (they must be processed by US Officials) it just adds to the stress of the situation.

Believably thrown into the crime, Molly is a determined and intelligent woman, who is set on discovering who the killer is and freeing an accused friend. Along the way she makes friends with a policeman, as well as the father of the children she's brought across.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's such a fun story, and Molly is such a terrific character, as is the framework of New York City circa 1901, that I was sorry to put it down and craved another installment right away. Luckily, there's a new one just out in hardback - Death of Riley. Meanwhile, if you enjoyed this novel as much as I did, you might give Victoria Thompson's fine series a try.

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