Sunday, March 14, 2010

New York in the 19th century

In a Gilded Cage (Molly Murphy Mysteries, #8) After reading most of Anne Perry's books, I started reading the crime novels of Victoria Thompson. They have a similar theme: Independent woman solves crimes in a 19th century metropolis. Thompsons first books were mildly dissatisfying to me, because of a lack of complexity. However, since I lived in NYC, and they were otherwise pleasing, I continue to read her novels. Since she only writes one a year, I was pleased to find another author with a crime novel serious of a similar kind.

Rhys Ryan's Molly Murphy novels are utterly delightful. They are easy to read, but interesting and funny. Molly is the only woman of the books of the genre (at least of the ones I read), in which the protagonist actually calls herself a professional detective.

The newest one "In a gilded cage" has Molly Murphy investigate the ancestry of another professional woman, who works at a drugstore. In spite of being college educated, she is not allowed in the lab (which she would have loved) but has to work as a sale person.

Then another case showed up (connected to the first one), with the Poindexter family in the center. The client and women die, all somewhat connected. It appears to be the flu (I don't think that in the 19th century, people would have talked about "a particularly vicious strain of influenza", one of the rare historical mistakes), but Molly and her friend Emily are suspicious.

Molly's beau, a police captain, incidentally investigates overlapping crimes. Information that lead to nothing for Molly helps him to solve his cases, while she is not taken serious, but manages in the end well on her own.

Interesting features of the Molly Murphy series are the constant reminders of the status of women of the times, the differences between the classes, the vivid description of life in NYC of the times. In this particular book, it's mostly about the women that loose all independence once they are married, and a little bit woman's suffrage. Previous books in the series covered among other themes sweat shops, workers rights and more woman's lib.

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