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by Rhys Bowen
St Martin's Minotaur, March 2005
336 pages
ISBN: 031232815X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Molly Murphy is trying to get people to take her seriously as a private detective. That's an uphill climb for an Irishwoman in 1902 New York City, and she is fast running out of money and work. Also, she's running out of boyfriends.

Having thrown over Captain Daniel Sullivan when she found out he was engaged to someone else, she has turned her attentions to Jacob Singer -- only to be disappointed when she goes to his apartment for food and he denies their relationship in front of his strict cousins from the old country. Furious, she breaks off their not-quite-engagement.

But that doesn't solve the work problem, so Molly is in no position to refuse when Daniel offers her a job suitable for a woman. She is to pose as Molly Gaffney, a distant cousin of Senator Flynn's, to gain access to the Flynn household and expose a pair of spiritualists. Daniel is convinced that the Sorensen sisters are scamming Mrs Flynn, who is still mourning for the son kidnapped and killed five years ago.

This assignment is overheard by a beggar woman who follows Molly home and reveals herself to be the child's former nursemaid. She begs Molly to find out what really happened, so that she can clear her name.

The forthright, energetic Molly finds herself at a disadvantage living in a fancy house. Her bohemian friends, practical lifestyle, and peasant background haven't suited her to being a lady of leisure. Still, she does her best to investigate the kidnapping and the spiritualists, but then she finds herself at the biggest disadvantage of all. Staying next door is Justin Hartley, the man who tried to rape her back in Ireland. She fled the country when she thought she'd killed him in self-defense. But he didn't die. Now he's here in America too and he recognizes her.

IN LIKE FLYNN has all the rich historical detail and adventure that I've come to love in this series. Although Molly is forced by circumstances to be somewhat more passive than usual, she is still wonderfully headstrong, intelligent, determined, and self-sufficient.

I found the dismissal of Jacob to be a rather perfunctory and unsubtle way of heating up the relationship between Molly and Daniel -- which gets rather overheated in this book -- but the puzzle and the plot more than make up for that. The mystery and the writing are solid and exciting, with enough wealth of characterization for this book to be readable over and over even after you know whodunit.

Because the references to the three previous books are not well explained, I can't recommend that the new reader start with this one. Fortunately, since the first three are also rollicking good reads, I can easily recommend that if you haven't met Molly yet, grab a copy of MURPHY'S LAW and sit down to enjoy one of the best historical mystery series out there.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, March 2005

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