Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Still Life With Murder (Nell Sweeney Mysteries) by P.B. Ryan

The Content ReaderBeing in Mallorca my reading habits is slightly different. More like; you take what you have. I do have a small library here, but most of the books I have already read, but there are of course still some. It would not be me if there wasn’t a TBR shelf or two!

Then there is the iPad where I save books for a day when no actual paper books are appealing. Being on a holiday it is nice with some easy going novels to spend the days in the sun. I subscribe to some newsletters who offers free or very cheap books. Most of the time they are not appealing to me, but from time to time there is a gem. Like this one!

I hadn’t heard of neither the book of the author, but the summary sounded interesting. A detective story set in Boston in the latter half of the 19th century. With a bold and intelligent woman as the heorine and the black sheep of one of the old families as the hero, and, taking place in a historical setting… was too much for me to resist. And what a wonderful, very thrilling story, taking you towards an end which you could not imagine until the very end. It was only when I came to the end that I realised that this is a series of six books!


We meet Nell Sweeney, a young orphaned girl, in the beginning of the book, as an assistant to the local doctor. Being called to the summerhouse of the Hewitt family, and old, wealthy family from Boston, where one of the maids is in labour. The labour is hard but thanks to the doctor and Nell both the mother and baby survives. The baby is adopted by Mrs Hewitt and her husband and they enrol Nell as the governess. This is the prologue and there are a lot of hints during this short chapter (I will not reveal here not to spoil anything) to take you straight into the story and happily go through the book as fast as possible.

Nell is a young lady with a dark past and secrets. The Hewitt family, as families of this sort mostly, also have secrets. Their two eldest sons died in the Civil War and the two youngest, of which one is the wild sort, are the only remaining. Then of course there is Gracie, the young girl adopted by the family.

Then a murder happens which puts the reputation of the family at risk. Mr Hewitt has his own way of solving the problem and Mrs Hewitt has hers. This mostly involved Nell who is sent on a errand to the areas of the city she would normally not frequent. It also makes her remember her past.

I will not reveal more of the story since there would be spoilers. The story is very well written, it looks into the lives of the upper and lower classes, opium dens, dubious bars and the mystery of who murdered Ernest Tulley. The detective work developing with discussions between Nell and Detective Cook, is well written in an old fashioned kind of way, comparing with Sherlock Holmes or Poirot. There is a tension between the heroine and the hero which is developed through their characters and a increasing respect between the two. There is no notion that they will automatically come together. We just have to wait and see.

I really liked the characters that P.B. Ryan has developed. They are also recurring in the coming books which I noticed when downloading the second book in the series, Murder in a Mill, which I have already finished. Although the crime story is not as exquisite as in the first book, it is very thrilling and as in the first book, you come to passages where you wonder how the heroine will be able to get out of the situation. Very well done indeed.

The books are both historical fiction (I am sure people familiar with Boston will recognise themselves) and a traditional detective story à la Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie. Patricia Ryan has also written a series of “Medieval Romantic Suspense”, also including six books, which I might try out. What I like about her heroine is that she is a strong, intelligent, tough, clever and bold young lady who is able to meet situations out of the extra ordinary, but still seemingly realistic. The hero is a handsome black sheep, living with terrible memories of the Civil War and having difficulties to adapt to every day life. Let’s see if our heroine somewhere in the series manages to make him adapt to a normal life.

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