I’ve been a fan of Rhys Bowen’s for several years, first with her Constable Evan Evans series, then with the delightful Royal Spyness novels, but I hadn’t dipped into her Agatha-award winning historical series featuring Molly Murphy until Rhys’s newest novel, Hush Now, Don’t You Cry, came out early this month. Clearly I waited too long.
This eleventh novel in the story of housemaid turned detective Molly Murphy finds Molly (now Mrs. Daniel Sullivan) newly married just after the turn of the nineteenth century to police inspector Daniel, and ready to enjoy a honeymoon at a guest house at one of the summer “cottages” at Newport, Rhode Island, just past the fashionable season, as guests of the absent construction magnate Alderman Brian Hannan. Hopes of a romantic interlude are quickly dashed when the Hannan family arrives unexpectedly for a command meeting with the Alderman, who is nowhere to be found. Until he is, dead at the bottom of the cliffs below his mansion.
And when new husband Daniel is stricken with pneumonia, it’s Molly who must investigate this intricate family knot and determine not just who killed the patriarch, but another, even darker secret that no member of the family wants to talk about (naturally).
Ms. Bowen quickly moves the story away from Tammany Hall New York City politics of that time toward a roasted chestnut of a plot from the past. I won’t say exactly what it is, but it is a testament to her skill that the chestnut is both familiar and fresh at the same time, the exact combination of surprise and inevitability that I look for in a good cozy mystery, and one perfectly in keeping with the pitch-perfect turn-of-the-century tone.
The family members have their usual murky motives, the “cottage” mansion has its haunts and secrets, and all are revealed with the skill of a master craftsman at the top of her game, using a plucky detective at the top of hers. Molly is a delight through and through, with just enough sauce, sass, and manners to win over the Hannan family and Ms. Bowen’s legion of understandably devoted readers.