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by Rhys Bowen
St. Martin's Minotaur, October 2001
226 pages
ISBN: 0312282060

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Molly Murphy runs from her village in Ireland after having killed the son of the local English landowner who was trying to have his way with her in the kitchen of the cottage she shared with her father and brothers. She takes all the money in the house and runs 5 miles to the railroad station, where she boards the first train to Belfast. She lands with only pennies in her pocket and fortuitously falls in with Kathleen O'Connor who has tickets to go to the US on a ship leaving the next day. Kathleen has consumption, and she has heard that she will not be allowed into the US, but she wants to get her children to their father in New York. Molly agrees to take Kathleen's identity and ticket and the children and Kathleen goes back to County Derry to die.

Molly has a few adventures on the ship. A man purporting to be from Kathleen's village accosts her, and when he is found murdered in the men's dormitory on Ellis Island, things start getting complicated. Seamus O'Connor who has taken the ferry to meet his wife and children, plays along with Molly until she can tell him what is going on. He takes her to the tenement flat he shares and Molly, with her insatiable curiosity, continues to investigate.

There are many books about turn of the century New York, a time of expanded emigration from the poverty of the old world to the streets of gold of the new, but none with the point of view of the Irish, since the main body of immigration from Ireland was a couple of generations earlier, with the potato famine. At least Molly, unlike most of the immigrants, speaks English and is educated. It will be interesting to see how she fares. By the way, the hardcover has a great vintage photo of Ellis Island on the dust jacket.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, January 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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