Away in a Manger
A Molly Murphy Mystery #15
Minotaur Books, November 2015
It was inevitable that the Molly Murphy series should have a Christmas tale, and now it does. It is the winter of 1905 in Little ‘Ol New York, and the streets are filled with Holiday shoppers, beggars and pickpockets. Molly, now Mrs. Sullivan, with a little boy and married to police Captain Daniel Sullivan, is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with her family and her husband’s visiting mother. Instead, of course, she becomes involved with a murder mystery.
While out pushing the pram in which Liam is belted in, with her young ward Bridie accompanying her, Molly hears an angelic voice singing carols coming from a young girl sitting, freezing, in the entranceway of a store. It turns out that the little girl and her eight-year-old brother were left in the care of a Scrooge-like boarding house owner by their mother, who just brought them to America from England where they were living. The children, with little clothing, are forced into the streets during the day to beg for change by their minder. The mother is missing. Circumstances ideal for Molly to once again demonstrate her detective skills despite her promises to her husband to refrain from such activities.
The story is a simple one, straightforward and with few complications. About the only impediments are the snow and slush and the fact that Captain Sullivan is shot along the way, delaying Molly’s progress in discovering the whereabouts of the children’s mother and hopefully reuniting them with their American family. The descriptions of turn-of-the-century New York, customarily excellent in previous entries in the series, are up to grade, especially in the way the author describes what no longer exists in Manhattan: the Sixth, Ninth and Third Avenue Els and trolley cars.
Another charming chapter in the life of Molly Murphy, and one which is recommended.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2015.