IN LIKE FLYNN is the fourth novel in the Molly Murphy mystery series written by Rhys Bowen. Molly is the gritty young woman who could be the poster girl for women's rights a decade later than her time. She's a fiery red-haired colleen from Ireland who lives in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. She practices the trade of private investigation as her livelihood. But her gender gets in the way much of the time. A former boyfriend, Captain Daniel Sullivan of the New York City Police Department, gives her a job that takes her out of the city. When she spends time in the Hudson River Valley at the private estate of a U.S. Senator, Barney Flynn, she escapes the ravages of a typhoid fever epidemic in the city.
Her job is to watch two spinster sisters at their trade. They assist persons in grief by contacting the dead through a séance. Daniel authorizes Molly to investigate the two for a reason to prosecute. He thinks they are bogus and play on the tragedies of their victims. The Senator's wife, Theresa, mourns her son who was kidnapped from the estate five years before. Her second child, Eileen, reminds her more of her loss. Theresa remains inconsolable, grasping at remote possibilities to reunite with her dead child.
Molly is shown as spunky, bright, energetic and living on the verge of propriety for a young woman of her day. However, she exhibits a vulnerability to feminine emotion that makes her real. She's moved on romantically but leans on her former lover for support. She's masquerading as a distant cousin from Ireland who visits the Flynns. But shadows from her past life thwart her in the form of a man she's been accused of killing back in her homeland.
Life at the turn of the century is a pallet drawn well in IN LIKE FLYNN. Bowen writes her characters well, especially the female side. Her men are not as easy to like, with the exception of the police detective. The butler, gardener, male secretary, and even the Senator are more predictable characters then their female counterparts. The Senator is a wanderer, chasing all young skirts on the property. At the same time he indulges his wife's whims and dominates her with petty minutia.
The mystery has twists and turns that lead to a pleasing outcome, though not altogether fulfilling. IN LIKE FLYNN isn't a story that yearns for a sequel, but it does leave the details of Molly's future open-ended. Thus, we'll look for the next Molly Murphy mystery at the bookstores.
A majority of modern mysteries deal with murder, mayhem and today's technologies. IN LIKE FLYNN is a pleasant change in the genre, relying on old-fashioned problem solving, without benefit of cell phones, computers and speeding police chases. Bowen's style is deserving of the awards she has received for her suspense-filled stories.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on May 2, 2011