Rhys Bowen takes us back to the beginning of the 20th century and allows us to follow the road so many have taken, from Ireland to Ellis Island to New York City. This she accomplishes through the eyes of a spunky young woman, Molly Murphy, whose journey is marked by several murders. Forced to flee Ireland, Molly boards a ship masquerading as the mother of two young children. While waiting on Ellis Island, one of Molly’s fellow shipmates is murdered and she becomes a prime suspect. Assisted by a NYPD cop, Daniel Sullivan, Molly strives to prove her innocence while trying to begin a new life.
Bowen paints a lively and believable picture of life on a liner and makes us feel the immigrants’ anxiety, waiting to pass through the gates of Ellis Island. The life of New York at the time is vibrantly described, especially from the perspective of the Irish immigrant. Molly is vivacious and resourceful, but I often found her too modern in the way she acted and thought. The story also relies too often on chance occurrences, actions difficult to believe. For instance, would a mother let her children go off alone to another continent with a woman she has just met and who is accused of murder? I also found the style repetitious, a fault difficult to forgive in a veteran author. However, the story moves along very well and the characters are endearing, making for a nice, breezy read.