My weakness for Christmas-themed Mystery Novels
Who doesn't love a good mystery novel, and especially one that is Christmas themed? No, seriously, who is that person?
Mysteries are usually pretty universally loved and that is likely largely due to the inherent intrigue and that page-turning need to figure out the clues before the culprit gets away with it. I didn't know anything about author Rhys Bowen when I picked up another of her stories last winter (similarly a Christmas-themed mystery novel...you may be noticing a pattern) but doing a little research, she has two major running mystery series - the Royal Spyness Series and the Molly Murphy Series. This book falls into the latter.
As with any time you pick up the 15th installment into a book series...there's quite a bit of story I had missed. However, Bowen does a great job bringing you into the loop and I never really felt that I didn't have the amount of information I needed to really like this character. Because I did really like this character.
Molly Murphy is an Irish immigrant living in New York around the turn of the century. For quick reference, women do not have the right to vote yet. So despite a historical setting in which many women could not have a career, or financial independence, or you know, the right to vote; Molly is refreshingly independent. What I have gathered from her backstory is that she was a maid to a High Society Lady when she first came to America and then, through circumstances I'm not entirely aware of, finds her way into the crime solving field. You know what, I don't even care what those circumstances are. Because what it leaves you with is a woman who can take care of herself and isn't afraid to get into a little bit of trouble.
Molly's husband is a Captain in the New York Police, and he is...not my favorite. He's pretty quick to tell her to be safe, stay out of trouble, and don't wander too far into danger. While this is a bit patronizing at times and I was getting annoyed with it, it does make sound sense as she is his wife and the mother of his son, and who wouldn't say those things to the people they love? He's stuffy and tends to talk about her detective skills and career with a hint of condescention, but - literally - every time I thought it was too much, so did Molly. And thankfully she is never afraid to speak her mind. The Bechdel test. I haven't talked about that on this blog yet but a book has to pass it before I'll sign off. Never heard of it? That's ok, here's the Wikipedia page. Away in a Manager passes with flying colors - there's Molly, Bridie (her young ward), their neighbors across the street (a lesbian couple), as well as a visiting mother-in-law; and, everyone spends most of their time talking about Christmas preparations and how to get to the bottom of this mystery. This doesn't seem extraordinary because, well, it's not; but, once you start holding up your pop culture faves to the Bechdel test, you'll come to be surprised at just how uncommon a passing grade is. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun mystery novel. If I were to put on my book-snob hat (and I am), this is no Sherlock Holmes, and maybe not even an Agatha Christie. The writing is good enough and Bowen does a wonderful job taking you through the streets of New York in the early years of the 20th Century, but the character is what really sold me. I'll definitely be making a note to pick up some more Molly Murphy books the next time I'm in the mystery mood.
by Rhys Bowen
Genre: Mystery, Fiction
*I've also read The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen, which is part of the Bowen's Royal Spyness series. From a former review of mine: "While not the best murder mystery I've ever read, this book was really fun and great to take in just before Christmas. The plot, the mystery, the reveal are all clever; though, perhaps a little too broadcasted. The characters are all delightful, and the numerous holiday traditions add to the overall enjoyable story." Similarily, our main detective is a woman: Lady Georgiana Rannoch (Georgie). These mysteries are set in England in the 1930's, and Georgie is minor royalty so there more of a touch of the romantic and she lacks some of the gumption of Molly Murphy. But if you really love the genre, it's another great option.