The Death of Riley (a Molly Murphy mystery)
Author: Rhys Bowen
Published by: St. Martin's Minotaur, December 2003
I'd started reading Rhys Bowen's Evan Evans series some years ago, but I rather tired of them after reading only two. On a whim I picked up this book just to try something new. It's certainly pleasant to read and better than the average cozy I've seen on the shelves.
The protagonist, Molly Murphy, is an Irish immigrant to New York city in 1901. She hasn't much money (a common theme in cozy mysteries) but she won't last in the very few jobs available to young women at the time (i.e., charwoman, servant, factory worker) and she has no references to become a governess, but she's got a strong personality and an independent mind (also a common theme) and decides she'll go to work for a private detective. A few weeks later, the private detective (Riley) is dead and she goes on the hunt for his killer.
While this series indulges in a lot of the common elements for stories of its kind (the strong woman who is nearly penniless, of exceptional character, reasonably pretty, very much misunderstood, has a lovely beau who is unreachable in one way or another, etc., etc.) it diverges from the common in that the story makes use of documented historical facts and events and therefore gives us a glimpse of the period and the people.
I found it to be a pleasant diversion. It was well written and well-paced, always keeping my attention. I found the ending to be a bit abrupt, but it leaves the door open for future stories (this is only the 2nd book in a series of 6 so far). I might pick up the next one in the series now, at least while I await something the next in the Dalziel & Pascoe series from Reginald Hill.