Bless the Bride, Rhys Bowen’s latest Molly Murphy mystery, finds Molly sewing her trousseau with her future mother-in-law out in peaceful Westchester County. To anyone who knows Molly from the previous books in this excellent series (she’s a ground-breaking private detective in 1903), it comes as no surprise when Molly leaps at the opportunity to leave this bucolic torture and head back to the city where a case will mire her in Chinatown, a world completely new to her. As she sifts through layers of crime and a tough moral dilemma, more than one bride is in danger and sometimes in ways that put the chauvinism of Molly’s fiancé, Daniel Sullivan, in perspective.
With Rhys Bowen’s expertly chosen historical details, we are alive in New York in 1903—the Bowery, Greenwich Village, and especially Chinatown. There’s no romanticizing of the past here. Prejudices and the realities of urban life at the opening of the twentieth century bind the plot and characters into a compelling story. She is particularly adept at depicting the villains in Chinatown without losing sight of the nuanced, complex life that the Exclusion Act forced upon Chinese immigrants of this period—a timely picture given our current national debate on immigration.
Bowen’s mysteries are sometimes categorized as “cozies,” and you will want to curl up with your cup of tea (or glass of wine) and have an uninterrupted read, but she’s too good a writer to be entirely summed up by that label. Bowen succeeds in giving us a page-turning mystery, with all the delight and fun that that implies, while also letting us savor the genuine issues of women’s rights, immigration fears, and what makes a good marriage, to name a few, without a hint of dreary preachiness.