We started 2021 on a high note when we joined Rhys Bowen on Zoom to talk about the first Molly Murphy mystery, Murphy’s Law. This was Rhys’ second series, and has been as popular as her first: the Inspector Evan Evans books. We felt it was particularly appropriate as we’re struggling with immigrant issues currently as well. Molly’s tense departure from Ireland to try to have a new life in America resonated with members as did the fact that Molly is striving to establish herself in a career that was just grudgingly, opening to women. We also identified with the horrible situation that led to her migration: being accused of murdering the local squire’s rapacious son who was “trying to have his way with her”. The death was an accident, but Molly know that no one would be on her side if the true facts were revealed.
We all were captivated by the way Rhys breathes life into the experiences a young woman would have in this time period. Rhys uses skillfully uses her research and travels to describe what the roads, the clothes and the tenements and mansions where like, and what the lifestyles were like for the people who lived in them. Molly’s journey in steerage on the Majestic made the contrast for the upper class passengers more striking and we all shared sympathy with her situation, and marveled at her courage to take on a new life by herself in a foreign country. We talked a bit about how there’s nothing like taking “a walk in the moccasins” of others to sharply bring home the experiences and realities of those other people.
Rhys also related some personal and very amusing stories of her own about her life as a mystery writer, and how it has recently led her career as a writer to choosing to write straight historical novels. The first of these set during World War II, In Farleigh Fields has been acclaimed by a much larger readership who are learning for the first time what a great writer she is. This book also became an Edgar nominee, and an Agatha winner. Her other two stand-alones are also based around WWII and are called: The Tuscan Child and The Victory Garden.
As we have some diehard fans of Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter to the Duke of Atholt and Rannoch – otherwise known as “Her Royal Spyness”. It is Rhys’ third series, set in England in the 1940s, it follows the exploits of Lady Georgie whose family is aristocratic, remotely an extended part of the royal family, and nearly penniless. She is part of Rhys’ current writing efforts, but when we beseeched her for another Molly, she mentioned that one is always possible.
We thanked Rhys for taking the time to not only visit with us, but to revisit the start of an older (but wonderful) series.