Wild Irish Rose (Molly Murphy Mysteries, 18)

Written by Clare Broyles
Review by G. J. Berger

This cozy mystery plays out in the New York winter of 1907.  Molly has a two-year-old son, is ward of thirteen-year-old Bridie, and is married to Daniel, a Manhattan cop. She suffers Daniel’s imperious mother and misses her past life, when she was single and the head of her own detective agency.

Friends ask Molly to participate in a used clothing drive for poor immigrants at Ellis Island. Molly, who landed there from Ireland years before, helps gladly. On the day they distribute good clothes to the freezing arrivals, a well-dressed man is discovered stabbed to death in an empty room of a large warehouse. In a nice twist, the immediate suspect, Rose, is a new Irish immigrant and bears a striking resemblance to Molly. Soon after, a constable even mistakes Molly for Rose. The police remain unable to put a solid case together, and Molly can’t help snooping where Daniel orders her not to. She vows to clear Rose.

The authors deftly describe all the New York and Ellis Island settings, from alleys and streets, to boardinghouses and mansions. The find-the-killer plot yields another dead man, then one more body back in Ireland. However, the characters are less compelling than the plot. Molly laments her lot as housewife and mother too often and misses clues about the killer obvious to the reader. Daniel and his mother are bland stereotypes, while Bridie comes across as little more than a petulant teen. The chaotic ending includes car and foot chases, a kidnapping, a rush to catch a train leaving Grand Central, and two more deaths.

Overall, the story’s interesting elements don’t quite overcome the one-dimensional characters and implausible finale.