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Monday, July 2, 2012

Still Life with Murder by P. B. Ryan

Genre: Historical Mystery

Setting:  Boston, 1868

First Sentence:  "It's going to be a bad one."

This novel is the first in Ryan's Nell Sweeney Mystery series.

On a stormy night Dr. Greaves and his apprentice Nell Sweeney are called to the Hewitt home.   Annie the maid is suffering through a difficult delivery.  Before the night is through, Annie delivers the child and gives it to the Hewitts to raise.  And Nell is hired to be the Hewitt's governess for the child.  Why Annie gives up the child, and why the Hewitt's are willing to adopt her, is the beginning of the mystery.

Three years later, Nell is serving happily as governess for little Grace.  Then the Hewitts receive some shocking news.  Their son Will, who they believe died at Andersonville during the Civil War, is alive.  He has been arrested and is accused of murder.  Will's mother asks Nell to visit him in jail.  Nell finds that Will is an opium addict and professional gambler.  As Nell begins to investigate the case she begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the Hewitt family.  She gets no help from Will who seems perfectly willing to hang for the murder.  Yet he will not admit, or deny, committing the crime.

As the plot progresses, we gradually learn about Will: what happened to him during the war, why he is an opium addict, and why he is willing to die for a crime he probably didn't commit.  We also learn about Nell and her history.  She is not the maidenly governess that she seems to be.  She has had checkered past.  The author does a great job of dropping hints about Nell and her experiences.  Not all has been revealed which means I will be downloading the next book to my Kindle.

I really enjoyed this novel.  I liked the pace of the writing.  The plot moves along.  Ryan does a good job of describing the setting and the action without being long winded.  I was especially interested in the descriptions of opium smoking. 

This novel is a great beginning to what looks like a very interesting series.  Check it out.

Still Life with Murder

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