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by Rhys Bowen
St Martin's Minotaur, March 2006
336 pages
ISBN: 0312328176

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Captain Daniel Sullivan of the New York Police Department (circa 1902) has gotten himself and Molly into trouble in this fifth Molly Murphy historical mystery.

Molly wants nothing to do with him since he literally loved and left her, but when she finds out that he has been disgraced, arrested, and thrown into The Tombs, she can't help but pledge to set him free.

Unfortunately, several factors are against her. First is her gender; despite the work she has already done, nobody is taking the idea of a female detective very seriously. Second, the witnesses -- all gang members -- are nowhere to be found until the trial is over. Third, no less a personage than the police commissioner himself witnessed Daniel taking an unmistakable bribe. Fourth, Molly isn't feeling at all well; to her own surprise, she is becoming very emotional and having trouble keeping food down, especially in the mornings.

As if all of that wasn't problem enough, there's a serial killer loose in the Upper East Side and Molly's worst enemy, Daniel's fiancee Arabella Norton, has asked Molly to look into the disappearance of an old friend.

OH DANNY BOY isn't entirely perfect. The puzzle wasn't as tight as previous books, and dubbing a character the East Side Ripper raises expectations about the murderer that aren't fulfilled. (I'd like to see a moratorium on the use of 'Ripper' to describe anyone but the notorious Jack.)

Nevertheless, the Molly Murphy series has been a highly-recommended favorite of mine since MURPHY'S LAW, and OH DANNY BOY continues the tradition of charismatic characters and excellent writing. One of the things I appreciate the most is that the characters are constantly growing and developing. Because of this, it would not be easy to read the books out of order, but this also means that the reader is rewarded with larger story arcs than are possible within self-contained, slowly-changing series books.

The major development in OH DANNY BOY (besides the romantic complications between Molly and Danny) is the introduction of Sabella Goodwin, who in real life would become one of the earliest female police detectives. It is a tribute to Bowen's writing skills that Molly solves the mystery without Sabella ever looking incompetent or unintelligent.

I recommend OH DANNY BOY highly to everyone who is interested in a historical cozy, or even a historical police procedure. If you are already a fan of Molly's you won't be disappointed. If you aren't, she's a woman you'll enjoy knowing. but you might want to start with MURPHY'S LAW. When it comes to the latest book in this series, getting there really is half the fun.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, March 2006

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