Tuesday, March 13, 2012
MOLLY MURPHY'S BACK!
DEBORAH CROMBIE: What could be a bigger treat for the week before St. Patrick's Day than to have a new Molly Murphy book from Jungle Red's own Rhys Bowen!
HUSH NOW, DON'T YOU CRY is the eleventh novel featuring Molly, who arrived at Ellis Island as a poor and desperate Irish immigrant in 1900. It is now 1904 and Molly has come a long way, giving up the private detection business she's built for herself in order to marry New York Police Captain Daniel Sullivan. She's promised to leave the detecting to her husband, but interesting cases have a way of falling at Molly's feet. An invitation to spend a belated honeymoon at the Newport, Rhode Island estate of a powerful alderman comes with murder included.
Not only is HUSH NOW, DON'T YOU CRY a cracking good mystery, it is also a fascinating portrait of an era, as Molly gets an intimate look at how the other half lives.
Now, Rhys is going to tell us why she writes about the past, but first I have to say, Rhys, I LOVED this book! Your research shows in all the best ways--the atmosphere is so vivid, and Molly is such an appealing character, strong, curious, and independent while still remaining true to her own place and time. And the cover is absolutely stunning--I can't imagine seeing this novel and not wanting to pick it up and read it! (And Rhys will give a copy to a lucky--how very Irish!--commenter! )
Congratulations on a super job from me and all your Jungle Red chums!
RHYS BOWEN: I read an interesting fact over the weekend: half the books nominated for the Orange Prize in UK this year are some form of historical novel, be it literary, romance, mystery or any other genre. One only had to see the buzz surrounding Downton Abbey on TV to know that history is hot. As one who has been writing historical mysteries for over ten years now, this is great news but it makes me wonder why this sudden fixation for the past.
In my own case I didn't set out to write a historical novel. All I knew was that I had to write about Ellis Island. I had taken a sightseeing tour there and was unprepared for the overwhelming emotion I felt. This was strange as I had no immigrant ancestors in my family. But I could hear those walls crying out to me, telling me tales of great joy and great sorrow and I knew that I had to put the Ellis Island experience into a book. So Molly became an Irishwoman who has to flee for her life and makes it as far as Ellis Island only to be implicated in a murder there. When she stepped ashore in Manhattan it hit me that I knew very little about New York in 1900. I realize I had committed myself to research on every page for the rest of my life.
Actually the research has become part of the fun. I've always loved visiting other places and now I've added the time travel element to my visits. I'm lucky because much of Molly's New York is still there. I can walk her streets, even eat at some of her taverns. Setting a murder mystery in the past presents a female sleuth with extra challenges: how can she chase a villain, climb a wall in those ridiculously cumbersome garments and little pointy shoes? When she wants to take notes in the field what does she write with? She surely can't carry an ink well around with her. And then there is transportation. In New York it's easy to get around, but outside the city public transportation is limited to railway lines and a lot of walking is involved.
Another reason I've come to love the past is all the delicious motives for murder that no longer exist. I love another but I am not free. I am the rightful heir to the fortune. I must do anything to hide the fact that I was an illegitimate child.
But as to why everyone else is suddenly hooked on history?I think it has a lot to do with the uncertainty of our own times. We want to escape from Wall Street and Afghanistan and the primary elections. We long for a simpler time when society was governed by rules, when everyone knew his or her place, when ladies wore big hats and had tea on the lawn. Of course that pre-supposes that one is one of the ladies and not the drudge in the scullery. It is interesting to me because I write two very different series,one among those ladies taking tea and the other among those struggling to survive at the bottom of the heap. And in a way both my heroines transcend their worlds to experience how the other half lives.
So are you fascinated by the past? Why do you think we suddenly want to go there?