Murphy’s Law Review
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It was somewhere around the turn of the twentieth century that many of my ancestors left the Netherlands in search of a new life in America. I never really thought about what it must have been like for them to travel to this new world—but author Rhys Bowen brings their experience to life in her first Molly Murphy Mystery, Murphy’s Law.

On the run from the law back home in rural Ireland, Molly Murphy escapes to London, where a chance run-in with a young mother sends her on a journey to America. Just as Molly is about to reach freedom on the shores of New York City, though, she’s delayed on Ellis Island—and, that night, a man from her ship is murdered.

Since Molly was seen arguing with the man during their voyage, Captain Daniel Sullivan questions her as a suspect. She quickly convinces him that she wasn’t involved—but after she’s released into the city, she sets out to find the real killer.

Technically, Murphy’s Law is a mystery—but Bowen doesn’t rush the story by opening it with a murder that needs to be solved. Instead, she eases readers into the series, taking a surprising amount of time to introduce the character and the setting. The body in question doesn’t even show up until page 58—and Molly doesn’t begin her investigation until much later—but while you may find yourself wondering when the real story is going to begin, you definitely won’t be bored by the build-up.

Though it moves along at a leisurely pace, Murphy’s Law takes readers on a fascinating journey, traveling across the ocean from the dark alleys of London to the bustling metropolis of Manhattan, with descriptions so detailed that you’ll almost feel the winter chill and hear the crowds as they travel along the busy city streets. Bowen paints an eye-opening picture of life for the average turn-of-the-century city-dweller—of run-down tenements and cramped hostels—and she throws in plenty of historical touches to give the characters and their stories some context.

Molly Murphy, meanwhile, is a likable character—one that you’ll want to revisit in future installments in the series. She has a strong, consistent voice and plenty of Irish spunk. And though her tongue often gets her in trouble—and you might sometimes find her recklessness frustrating—that’s what makes her the kind of character whose adventures you’ll enjoy following.

So while it may not be a breakneck mystery, the likable characters and carefully-researched historical details make Murphy’s Law an enjoyable series introduction. It’s a history lesson disguised as an entertaining light read—one that’s sure to make you appreciate the sacrifice that your immigrant ancestors made when they ventured across the ocean to find a new life in a new world.

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