Friday, July 1, 2011

Review of Rhys Bowen's The Last Illusion

Molly Murphy is a spunky character, who jumps when opportunity knocks. A fugitive from Ireland, she fleas by taking the place of another woman and solves her first mystery on board ship to America circa 1900. The Last Illusion is the ninth in this historical, soft-boiled mystery series, which takes place in New York City.

In spite of the fact that women had few rights back then, these books are pleasing on several levels. First the characters are appealing. Molly is brave, independent and resourceful without being manipulative. Her love interest Daniel Sullivan puts up a good argument against her continuing in the detective business, while at the same time benefiting both personally and professionally in her problem-solving abilities. Her theatrical friends Gus, Sid and Ryan provide a contrasting life-style and at times comic relief.

Second, the plots are involved and keep you guessing. Whether doing undercover work at the home of a senator or spying on the garment industry, the books are cleverly plotted. And third, the interweaving of history and historical characters from Teddy Roosevelt to Harry Houdini make these a secret treasure chest of information about New York and the early twentieth century.

In this latest book in the series, Molly is hired by Houdini's wife to be his stage assistant and thus his bodyguard. She thinks someone is out to harm him. Molly agrees, especially after witnessing a trick by another magician in which a woman is almost sawed in half. Although I'm not a big fan of magic, the book does reveal the methods by which magicians perform their illusions. I always enjoy the historical tidbits revealed by Rhys Bowen in her postscripts, and the fact that she keeps the series anchored to the history of the period. For me, the historical groundwork is what keeps me coming back.

If the name Rhys Bowen sounds familiar, you may have come across her name in two other series. Her first series involved Evan Evans a constable in Wales. It was set in a present-day village near Mount Snowdon and the stories are light cozies and have a more humorous slant than the Molly Murphy books. Her publishers chose not to reissue the earlier books in the series and so Ms. Bowen decided to discontinue it.

Another series, involving royalty, came out in 2007. In fact Her Royal Spyness is being made into a movie. I have not yet read this series, but it has won several awards. According to the author the Molly Murphy series will continue after her marriage to Daniel. For cozy lovers, who like light reading or for those, who enjoy a well-written mystery, the Murphy series continues to be an enjoyable read.

Copyright 2011 by Linda K. Murdock. Linda K. Murdock is the author of Mystery Lover's Puzzle Book, Crosswords with Clues from Your Favorite Mystery Series. She reads over 50 mystery books a year. Her puzzle book is a mini-anthology that reviews 29 award-winning writers. A check-off list of all the titles in each of the series, along with a crossword puzzle for each series, are included. See a sample crossword and learn more at

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