In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I am a big fan of Rhys Bowen’s mysteries. I enjoy her Molly Murphy mysteries, and her Royal Spyness stories as well. I was very excited when I received an opportunity to read Away in a Manger, the 15th Molly Murphy mystery.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Molly Murphy series, allow me to provide a brief introduction. Molly is a young Irish immigrant living in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. She worked as a detective before settling down with handsome police captain Daniel Sullivan. Her son Liam was born a couple of books ago, and he is now a lively toddler. Daniel does not approve of Molly’s detective work, and expected her to stop after the wedding- but Molly cannot help getting involved when people need her help.
Away in a Manger begins with Molly preparing to celebrate the holidays with her family. She and Bridie, her ward, encounter an angelic little girl singing Christmas carols in the street. Molly notices the girl’s English accent and that she is singing “Away in a Manger” the English way rather than using the American version. Both children speak with a very posh accent. Molly’s husband Daniel thinks that the children are more of the typical street children that he encounters during his work as a police officer; they are simply con artists posing as beggars, and they can’t be trusted. Molly is convinced that there is more to these children, and that they do not belong begging on the streets. She only has the recollections of two small children to work with, but she is determined to figure out if these children have any family in the city.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought the Christmas theme went very well with the plot. The children’s situation seemed especially desperate because of the cold and snowy weather. The holiday season enhanced the plot by giving Molly the perfect opportunity to visit the big new toy store- FAO Schwarz. The historical details of the period combined with the Christmas season, making this a very satisfying story. Bowen also contends well with the ongoing problem of Daniel not approving of Molly doing detective work.
I would absolutely recommend Away in a Manger. This is a wonderful story for fans of the series: there are many appearances from familiar characters from Sid and Gus to Molly’s mother-in-law. If you are new to the series, reading the books in order provides the reader with an appreciation for the characters, who have grown and changed as the series progresses. That said, the books do function as standalone novels, so feel free to start with a Christmas story as the holiday season is almost upon us.