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by Rhys Bowen
St. Martin's Minotaur, December 2003
320 pages
ISBN: 0312313004

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Rhys Bowen won the Agatha for best novel for the first in her Molly Murphy mysteries, MURPHY'S LAW. This is the third in the series, after THE DEATH OF RILEY. Molly comes to America, taking the place of a tubercular woman, escorting the woman's children to New York where they will meet their father, Seamus. Molly had to leave under an assumed name since she fears she killed the squire's son when he assaulted her.

There are not a lot of jobs for a woman in turn of the 20th century New York. She was rather a failure as a lady's companion, but thought she found her "calling" as a private detective until the man for whom she was working was killed.

As FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE begins, Molly is having a hard time of it. Luckily she still has some money from her late employer. She is worried about her surrogate family especially since the one son is running with an Irish gang as a "junior member."

Fate seems to have something more in store, however. She gets two jobs. The first is to find the daughter of wealthy English landowner in Ireland who has run off with one of the servants and come to the U.S. The second job sees Molly working as an "industrial spy." One garment maker wants to know who has stolen his designs and sold them to a rival.

The story is fast-paced and the details of the sweat shops where these immigrant women work for almost nothing is graphically described. Molly, in her quest for the thief, works in two different shops and is appalled at the conditions and the fact that the women even have the cost of power to run their sewing machines deducted from their meager pay.

The cruel supervisor almost causes a tragedy as a fire breaks out in the one shop because he has locked the doors. This is a foreshadowing of the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

Molly also becomes involved with the union that is trying to organize the women. Disappointed that her Irish policeman will not break his engagement to the prominent socialite though he declares his love for Molly, she finds that she is attracted to the organizer for the Hebrew Union, Jacob Singer.

The most compelling yet in a fine series. Molly is brave, but not foolhardy. She will not give up on finding the missing heiress, the design thief or abandon the attempt to organize the workers even after a crusading woman journalist meets an untimely end.

FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE is a sterling example of a well-written story with both strong characterization and great plot lines.

Reviewed by Doris Ann Norris, October 2003

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