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DEATH OF RILEY
by Rhys Bowen
Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin's Press, December 2002
274 pages
$24.95
ISBN: 0312282117


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In the brilliant and award winning MURPHY’S LAW we first met Molly Murphy, brash, courageous, curious, and eager for adventure. In this sequel we learn what happens to Molly once she has reached the shores of the United States and discharged her obligations to the two children she shepherded across the ocean. Obviously she needs some kind of work, but all available to women are unappealing. She does not want to be a servant or work in the fish market or be a shop girl. What she does want, she has decided, is to be a private investigator. Captain Daniel Sullivan, for whom she has romantic feelings, has suggested instead that she take a job as a companion to Miss van Woekem. But after only a few days she learns something about Daniel that makes it impossible for her to continue with the job.

However, she does meet a private investigator, Paddy Riley, and she becomes his apprentice in spite of his resistance. He shares with her that he has a very serious case and then, before she can learn more, she finds his dead body amidst the debris of his office which someone has obviously searched. To pursue her dream as well as fulfill her debt to Paddy, she resolves to find the murderer even though she cannot seek the aid of Captain Sullivan and too often it seems that she does not know what she is doing.

This odyssey takes her to many parts of early twentieth century New York City and the reader has the privilege of traveling with her. The evocation of the city is extremely well-done as well as accurate. Part of the enjoyment of this book is getting to see what New York looks like to an ambitious but poor immigrant as she tries to find some niche that is her own. One part of the journey takes her into Greenwich village where she discovers a bohemian society which suits her very nicely even though she is surprised at some of its facets. It also takes her to one of the darker moments in American history.

The setting and the historical depictions are excellent and lend delectation to the intriguing characters Molly meets along the way. Most are fictional, although quite believable, but a few actually lived and played important historical roles. Molly, especially, is authentic and credible, a delightful woman who refuses to settle for what society has told her she must settle for, who often rushes into adventures without thinking and then must find her way out, but who manages, in the end, to unravel the mysterious story.

The book is well-written and easily read. While it is lighthearted, there are still unpleasant truths that must be faced as part of the story. DEATH OF RILEY is a most enjoyable way to spend an evening and it is being published just in time so readers can buy a copy to give as a Christmas gift. I think it would be a mighty good choice.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, October 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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