Oh Danny Boy, Rhys Bowen, St. Martin's Minotaur, $6.99.
Rhys Bowen is a born storyteller. Her natural gift with narrative has happily been paired, in this series, with a totally memorable and endearing heroine, Molly Murphy. Following Molly as she comes over to American from Ireland in 1900 - she enters the country via Ellis Island - through her struggles to find a job, a mentor (he dies), friends, and her navigation through a rocky love life, Bowen thus firmly establishes Molly both as someone the reader can root for and someone who you are eager to know more about and follow through more adventures. Any devotee of this series has probably gobbled up each entry as soon as they hit the streets (I know I have), and so will know that the last novel, In Like Flynn, left her in a real quandary about her love life. That quandary isn't entirely resolved in this book (in some ways it becomes more complicated) but it's on the path to resolution. In this book Bowen takes on the tired serial killer genre in a fresh way (I didn't think it could be done, but see the Rennie Airth review for another take on this formula), placing it more firmly in the background as Molly attends to her real mission in this book: getting Daniel Sullivan out of jail.
Still furious with Daniel over his engagement to another woman, Molly is dragged - literally in handcuffs - to the jail to see Daniel by one of his police buddies. Daniel begs for her help as an investigator because she's the only person he can really trust - he's not so sure about his fellow officers. Molly knows Daniel may be many things, but dishonest isn't one of them. He's accused of taking a bribe, in front of the police commissioner, no less. Molly feels her way through this investigation by focusing on the two cases Daniel was assigned to before being thrown in jail - a case of horse doping at a race track on Coney Island, and the serial killer case of the "East Side Ripper". Molly teams up with a real life character, Sabella Goodwin, one of the first women on the New York city police force. Mrs. Goodwin actually became a full detective in 1910; her work with Molly in this book suggests one of the ways that might have happened. One of the things I really like about this series is not only its attention to period detail, but attention to things that haven't been frequently written about - the trip through Ellis Island in the first book is a good example, so is the shirtwaist factory fire depicted in For the Love of Mike. The depiction of Sabella Goodwin in this book is another such treasure - I had never heard of her, but her presence makes Molly's job more believable, gives Molly an entree into the workings of the police force, and provides her with an ally who's as strong minded and independent as she is. And like all the other books, this is a great story, with some personal issues for Molly that I won't give away, several memorable sidebar characters (along with Mrs. Goodwin), and an ending that left me wanting another installment as soon as Bowen can put pen to paper. This is one of the best historical series being written at the moment - my other favorite being Victoria Thompson's depiction of New York City - and I can't recommend these novels highly enough. Everyone I've sold them to has become an addict - don't deprive yourself of one of the real pleasures being offered in mystery at the moment.
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