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Book Review: Murphy's Law by Rhys Bowen

Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen

Molly Murphy had almost been resigned to the boring life of a village spinster. One fateful morning changes everything. Having committed murder in self-defence, she has no option but to flee. In the early 1900s in Ireland, the mercy of the law for an impoverished country girl is thin on the ground, especially when the victim is a British landowner’s son.

A combination of luck and wits, see Molly to the shores of New York. The only problem is that before the newly arrived immigrants are processed, one of the men from Molly’s ship is murdered. A man many of her fellow passengers saw her arguing with only days before. And if the authorities look too hard at Molly, there’s every chance they’ll realise that she’s the woman wanted for murder back home. Bluffing it out might not be enough this time. If Molly wants her identity to be safe, she’s going to have to solve this murder on her own.

Murphy’s Law, the first book in the Molly Murphy series, is a light and charming story. It won the 2001 Agatha Award, and it’s easy to see why. Fast-paced with a determined main character who pushes most of the action, this novel is compulsively readable.

The setting is novel. New York of the early 1900s, is a busy place, divided by ethnicity, class and morals. The bustling streets and dingy back alleys are vividly portrayed, making you feel as though you’re there.

There are faults to the story. Considering how clever Molly is meant to be, she fails to make many simple deductions. Coincidence features largely in solving the mystery too. But for entertainment the series is well worth exploring further.

Interplay between characters is wonderfully portrayed. I hope that a lot of the characters in the first novel turn up again. They add so much flavour to the story and really round Molly’s character out. Molly’s relationship with police officer Daniel Sullivan adds conflict but it’s also a nice touch. Her friendship with the children she brought over from Ireland also brings some authenticity to her character.

Murphy’s Law is a great start to a new cosy mystery series. I can’t wait to see what Molly gets up to next.


Murphy’s Law – Rhys Bowen

Minotaur Books (January 22, 2013)

ISBN: 9781250014085