In Murphy's Law Rhys Bowen introduces readers to amateur sleuth Molly Murphy and a colorful reimagining of turn-of-the-century New York City where mystery, romance, and murder await.
Molly Murphy is a smart and quick-witted Irish woman on the run from the police in her home country. With a stroke of luck, she befriends a woman who helps gain her passage across the Atlantic. Once arrived at Ellis Island, Molly finds the New York of 1901 more challenging than her dreams suggested – especially when a murder is committed before her party even sets foot on Manhattan. Now the prime suspect, Molly will have to track the real murderer across this strange new world in order to clear her name.
When one first reads Murphy's Law it's easy to see how the book paved the way for a beloved series. It's a novel filled with charm, wit, and suspense; Bowen's titular creation seems to jump off the page and directly into the hearts of her readers with all her honest gumption and mischievous curiosity – not to mention a wit to take 1900s New York by storm.
The novel's combination of quick pacing and an addicting story make it such a fun read, ideal for a winter weekend snowed in by the fire, and it set me up to want to follow Molly's adventures throughout the series in a binge-reading marathon. (Don't you love when that happens?) Molly is all Irish charm and hopeful courage as she tries to clear her name and tries not to flirt with handsome NYPD detective Captian Daniel Sullivan, the lead investigator on the case who can't decide if Molly is his greatest asset or biggest troublemaker.
Bowen colors in the identity of all her characters with skill and a wonderful knack for capturing the essence of the history. She does a particularly good job of bringing the immigrant situation in 1900s New York to life, from the Irish political influence to the way immigrant groups chose to live largely within their own ethnic organizations, as it were. "New York is not an American city," Molly quickly observes, but rather "a collection of small Italian, Jewish, German, and God knows what else villages slapped down next to each other."
Part of Molly's appeal is her straightforward narrative throughout the book, which gives way to moments of wisdom and humor while also contributing a certain quiet modernity to her. This sets her apart and lets the reader know that Molly is a heroine well ahead of her time, one to whom contemporary readers can relate, yet her historical roots - particularly her Irish characteristics - are never lost. With its delightful air, tautly woven mystery, and unforgettable collection of characters, Murphy's Law makes for deliciously fun reading; the sort of story that will pull you in and, upon closing the final page, surprise you with the realization that you haven't actually just traveled through time.
Molly's adventures continue across the Molly Murphy Mysteries, with the fourteenth novel in the series, The Edge of Dreams, publishing next month.