Database Part 2

Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen

Murphy's Law (Molly Murphy Mysteries, #1)On the run, Molly Murphy ends up in America where she becomes a suspect of another murder. 

Title: Murphy’s Law
Author: Rhys Bowen
ISBN: 0312984979 (ISBN13: 9780312984977)

Genre: Historical Cozy Mystery
Series? Yes; Molly Murphy Mystery

Publisher: St Martin’s Minotaur
First Publication Date: October 2001 (226 pages)

Available Formats on Amazon:

  • e-book $9.99
  • Hardcover $.99
  • Paperback $9.17
  • Mass Market Paperback $1.43
  • audiobook available through audible

 Why I chose this book: 

After reading Her Royal Spyness I grew to like this author’s style and when I noticed this book took place in a time period and setting I have never read before, I wanted to try it out. 

Author Interviews:

All About Romance


The setting combined with Molly’s character, I feel, make the story unique.


Agatha Award (Best Novel, 2001)
Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award (Historical Mystery, 2001)
Herodotus Award (First Historical Novel, 2001)
Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee (2002)


Molly Murphy is in a bad situation. Fighting off her would-be rapist, she accidentally kills him and runs away from home, knowing that any Irish person involved with the death of a English man would be hanged without questions. With nothing to her name, but the ripped clothes on her back, Molly ends up in London. A lucky encounter has her on a ship to America the next day, accompanying two young children, who are going to meet their father, and a different name. 

The horrible and dreary crossing of the ocean becomes worse when they arrive, finally, at Ellis Island. The man she was seen arguing with on the boat is found dead. Now Molly, known as Kathleen, is the suspect. She has to clear her own name in order not to go to jail, or worse, be shipped back to Ireland where the gallows await her. 


While similar to many other mystery novels, the setting and details make this book refreshing. It is always interesting, yet sobering to read about historical America, especially this time period where the Irish are a big factor in New York. The author does a great job of bringing the time period to life within the novel. While I enjoyed the writing, I also was peeved by a few additions.
First up was the amount of potential rape being used as a plot tool. While I admit, it is probably realistic, I found it to feel more like a device to move the story in a certain direction. The same can also be said for how Molly continued to look for jobs, yet barely did any job searching. So, even though she keeps saying she is looking or will look harder in the future, I continued to get more cynical about it. 

The characters were well done. I ended up not being a huge fan of Molly, but I feel she may be more likable to other people. My favorite character ended up being Daniel Sullivan, the love interest. He seems like a well-around good guy, although some of his actions left me confused–really one scene that seemed misplaced. The side characters were not the most vibrant, but some, who I think may be re-occuring, were done well.

The mystery was intriguing with clues slowly being introduced throughout as well as pertinent background information. I felt that some things went too easily for Molly, but since this falls under the cozy mystery genre, it made more sense. 

While I may not continue with the series, I do think this is one many people can and will enjoy. 

Other Reviews from Amazon

Publishers Weekly: The prolific Bowen, creator of Welsh constable Evan Evans (Evan Can Wait; Evan and Elle; etc.), relies a bit too much on coincidence but conveys a nice sense of place and period in this debut of a new historical series with its spunky, 19th-century Irish heroine, Molly Murphy. Defending herself from the unwelcome advances of the local landowner’s son, Molly accidentally kills him and flees her village to escape hanging. She heads for the anonymity of London, where a twist of fate introduces her to Kathleen O’Connor. Kathleen has two small children and tickets for a ship to America, where she plans to join her husband. But knowing they won’t let her on the ship because of her tuberculosis, Kathleen persuades the desperate Molly to take her children to America. On board, Molly attracts the loud attentions of a crude, boisterous type named O’Malley. Her public argument with him comes back to haunt her when he is found murdered on Ellis Island; Molly becomes a prime suspect, along with a young man she befriended. The handsome young policeman investigating the case, Daniel Sullivan, appears to believe Molly’s protestations of innocence, but Molly decides her she’d better investigate on her own behalf and that of her friend. Wending her way through a vivid, Tammany Hall-era New York, Molly struggles to prove her innocence, aided by one coincidence after another. (Oct. 15)Forecast: Bowen’s solid reputation will generate strong sales for this series debut, though Constable Evans fans should beware that the gentle humor of those novels is lacking here.

Booklist: Nimble of plot and fleet in the telling, Bowen’s latest begins a new series starring the plucky Molly Murphy. Hiding her fiery red hair but not her audacious ways, Molly escapes from her Irish village after inadvertently causing the death of the young laird who tried to rape her. She finds herself in possession of a steerage ticket to New York and the custody of two small children when the kids’ consumptive mother begs her to deliver the youngsters to their father in New York. The passage to America and the tumultuous events of Ellis Island, where another murder takes place, are vividly described, as is Molly’s negotiation of the Cherry Street Irish ghetto, Hell’s Kitchen, and the children’s overwhelmed Da and his unsavory relatives. Run-ins with the police and Tammany Hall are only a few of Molly’s adventures. The murder is solved in unorthodox ways, Molly finds love and work, and there’s promise of more adventures. History-mystery fans should add Molly to their lists of characters to follow. 


Tammany Hall, Irish in America, cozy, fast-paced, detailed, immigrants, women detectives

This is one for people who want realistic history to their easy mysteries. It is a fast and quick read that doesn’t delve too deep.

“Clues for the Future”

Molly Murphy -accidentally killed would be rapist –landowner, Daniel Sullivan–NYPD, Tammany Hall, Immigration to America. 1901


  • Quality: 4★
    The reuse of ‘finding a job’ and potential rape felt a bit lazy
  • Popularity: 4★
    People may not know of this book, but I think I could push this one easily


Murder on Astor Place (Gaslight Mystery, #1)Girl Waits with Gun (Kopp Sisters, #1)Metropolis

  • Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson
    This is also a historical cozy mystery taking place in New York with a female protagonist.
  • Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
    This book is also fast-paced lead by a female protagonist in early America on the east coast. 
  • Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney
    The same time period in New York, but with an Irish male lead who is on the run.

Booktalking Ideas: 

This a book with such detailed description, so focusing on that would be a good idea. Focusing on the different locations, Hell’s Kitchen, Ellis Island, Lower East Side, etc., and using some of the words may help swept the reader into the book and know what to expect. 

I may also read from the book the beginning of Molly running from Ireland or her time on the boat and the altercation with O’Malley. 

I would also focus on the mystery, give the who, what, where, when, and how. I would give background on why Molly become the suspect and why she has to clear her name.

Discussion Questions:

  1. While many historical books focus on the rich, in this book we see more about the normal person’s voyage across the Atlantic. Do you think things between the rich and poor have changed at all or do the rich still have more perks? 
  2. Rape is brought up multiple times and Molly is seen not as the victim, but as the one at fault. This is something still the same today, do you think people will ever stop blaming the victim?
  3. What are your thoughts on 1901 New York? Do you think this book got it right?
  4. Is the bad guy really the bad guy here? What do you think of the ending and how ‘justice was served?’