Murphy’s Law (2002) is the first novel in Rhys Bowen‘s series of Molly Murphy mysteries. (Bowen was previously known for her popular Constable Evan Evans mysteries.) Set in New York City at the turn of the century (ie. the 19th century), this mystery is rich with historical details about New York and the immigrant experience while also being an entertaining, suspenseful read.
Although Molly Murphy dreams of leaving behind her small life in a small Ireland coast town, she never really thinks she’ll get away. Certainly not to bustling New York City. But, when Molly kills a man (in self-defense), fleeing the country seems to be her only option.
Traveling under a false name, Molly gets to Ellis Island only to become a suspect in the murder of a fellow immigrant. With the help of dangerously charming police captain Daniel O’Sullivan, Molly has to try to clear her name in this crime before her past catches up with her.
Having studied New York City history in college, I’m always interested in novels with historical New York as a backdrop. Bowen’s prose brings the city as it was to life from her depictions of Hell’s Kitchen to discussions of New York’s notorious Tammany Hall government. The city is brought to life as carefully as any of the books characters, and I might add, to great effect.
In 2002, Murhphy’s Law won the Agatha Award for best novel, and it shows in the writing and storyline. The cover art and titles add to this novel’s charm. Named for a popular saying (Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.) the title does, unfortunately for Molly, tie into the plot. The same goes for latter books in the series.
If you want to read more about this determined Irish redhead, she was next spotted in Death of Riley.