Rhys Bowen & Clare Broyles: Wild Irish Rose

I really, really love Molly Murphy. For me these books are an inhale – as in, when one is available, I don’t look up from the pages until I am finished reading. Molly came to readers through Ellis Island in 2001 (for Molly, it was 1901), and the books kept appearing until 2017, when I was afraid the series had come to a natural end. Starting her adventures with “The next morning I sailed for America with another woman’s name”, Molly proceeded to shove her way into reader’s hearts as she made her hardscrabble way through New York City, finding work as a lady private detective.

Many books later, Molly is married to a police detective and the mother of a young son, Liam, as well as having charge of the young girl who came across on the boat with her, Bridie. It’s true, Bowen could have wrapped up the series, but she’s now teamed up with her daughter, Clare Broyles. The two have cleverly brought Molly back to Ellis Island for a mystery, though this time, it’s not Molly who’s accused of murder, it’s a red haired look alike just off the boat, Rose McSweeney.

This is a great way to kind of re-launch the series. Molly goes along with her friends and neighbors, Sid and Gus, to Ellis Island to hand out donated clothes to the immigrants just off the boat. It establishes Molly as a married woman with a home and responsibilities – someone who has come far since she arrived in New York – but it also gives the reader a taste of what Molly went through to get here. Molly’s heart naturally goes out to the accused woman, and she’s all over her husband, Daniel, for details when he arrives home from work.

As Molly is dealing with a toddler, a snappy and judgey mother-in-law who is spending the winter with them, and a Bridie who is growing into a somewhat defiant pre-teen, she has a lot to handle and Daniel frequently points this out to her as he suggests she not become involved in his case. But when the two talk things through, Molly is often able to supply good insights and Daniel reluctantly gives her some leeway. As Molly devotees already knew, however, that was bound to happen.

This book is one of the more realistic I have read where a main character is dealing with the demands of a toddler. Liam must be fed, washed, played with, put to bed – Molly’s mother in law helps, but there’s plenty to do, and the reader feels it. Sometimes kids in books are super convenient. Liam, while adorable, is also very much a kid. While Molly loves him she’s also realistically pulled in (many) other directions and her mother in law does help her out.

Eventually Molly gets Rose a job with an old friend of hers as a companion, a post that seems to suit both women. Rose is waiting for the police to clear her so she can go off to Chicago and be with relatives. Molly of course finds more layers to the mystery and makes some useful discoveries – her husband appreciates Molly’s smarts, but he also wants to pull his hair out.

Bowen, as I’ve said many times in the past, is an utterly natural storyteller, one who has the gift of pacing and character at her total command. I’m not sure just how the mother-daughter collaboration worked, but it certainly works well. This book, number 18 in this beloved series, is as readable and as enjoyable as book one. What a gift Molly Murphy is to readers.