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Murder in a Mill Town
A Gilded Age Mystery #2

by P B Ryan

      Nell Sweeney, governess extraordinaire to the Boston Brahmin Fallon family, has a new case to solve in this second book in the series. Ne'er-do'well Henry Hewitt ostensibly runs the nearby Hewitt mill and thus the Fallons have come to Viola to plead assistance for their missing millworker daughter. Flighty Bridget had a jailbird boyfriend and a sailor husband so it is easy to assume that she has met the bad end her father expected, but Nell suspects more foul play than that. Worse still, while investigating Bridget's ex-prisoner boyfriend she is again brought into contact with her own abusive ex-boyfriend Duncan. Now she has to draw on her past skills as "Cornelia Cutpurse" and her present situation as the ladylike governess and companion to the Hewitts.

The saga style of Catherine Cookson meets the "Victorian vices" world of Anne Perry in this popular whodunit. Much thought and research has gone into making the two faces of mid 19th century Boston come to life, whether the gilded world of the Hewitts or the grubby back streets of the underworld. To its detriment perhaps it is soon clear that this is a somber tale to say the least, with none of the hopes of betterment or change that color some other similarly set series. Nell and many other characters live on a knife edge, and have little choice in what they do, which brings a realism to the work that other series lack even if they might be more uplifting. Read this series to get a glimpse of warts-and-all Boston life.

The Book

Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin Putnam)
July 2004
Historical Crime [1868, Boston]
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006