Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Step around the heart of it

In the current mystery series I'm hooked on, the detective is an enterprising Irish immigrant in New York at the turn of the last century.

In Tell Me, Pretty Maiden, Molly Murphy is juggling five different cases - everything from an amnesiac woman to a haunted theatre - and of course most of them end up being connected in some way.

In previous books, real-life people (like President McKinley's assassin, the police Commissioner in 1901, and one of the first female NYPD officers) leap out of the pages of history and into Molly Murphy's world. In this one, Nellie Bly features prominently. (My grandparents gave me a biography of Nellie Bly for my twelfth birthday. I loved it.) And like Bly, Molly ends up going undercover in a women's mental institution to solve a case. She also jets down to Yale to dig up the truth about a missing student and joins the cast of a new risqué musical to find out who is the "ghost" scaring the performers in it.

In a Gilded Cage has less gallivanting around: Molly investigates several suspicious and sudden deaths during an influenza outbreak in the city. I guessed the identity of the murderer - that marks a first for me for any Rhys Bowen book. (I didn't, however, figure out the motive.)

The thing I love about this series is that there are so many different social movements and political undercurrents during this period in American history, and New York is a perfect melting pot for all of them. Each book has Molly encountering some new community or subculture; in Cage, it's the suffragist movement, as Molly joins a group of Vassar alumnae who march in support of votes for women.

I've already reserved the last two books in the set at the library - it's going to be so bittersweet when I've finished them! This series has been such a delight.

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