Book Review: Rhys Bowen’s The Family Way

Posted April 20, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Rhys Bowen’s The Family Way

The Family Way


Rhys Bowen

historical mystery in Hardcover edition that was published by Minotaur Books on March 5, 2013 and has 304 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Evans Above, Evan Help Us, Evanly Choirs, Bless the Bride, The Last Illusion, Evan and Elle, Naughty in Nice, Evan Can Wait, Evans to Betsy, Evan Only Knows, Her Royal Spyness, A Royal Pain, Royal Flush, Evan's Gate, Royal Blood, Evan Blessed, Evanly Bodies, Rhys Bowen, Hush Now, Don't You Cry, The Twelve Clues of Christmas, Heirs and Graces, Queen of Hearts, Malice at the Palace, Crowned and Dangerous, On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service

Twelfth in the Molly Murphy historical mystery series set in turn-of-the-century New York City with a most unhappy Molly.

My Take

A fascinating look at life in the heat of the summer in turn-of-the-century New York with health concerns and a different perspective on what to “cook” for dinner, and a touch of the suffragist movement and the Irish Republican Brotherhood to liven things up.

Unfortunately, that was the best part as Bowen has her characters…ahem…overcome by the heat. Well, it’s the only excuse I can imagine for how stupidly they act!

Daniel just keeps stepping in it over and over. I suspect the repetition is what drives Molly on to make so many stupid decisions. As for Wilkie, I found him rather condescending to Molly. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what he’s wanting, and yet he acts as though her conclusions are so brilliant.

I must say I do wonder at Sister Jerome choosing Sister Angelique as a midwife with her attitude. Especially when her inclination is not to save lives and Sister Jerome is counting on it.

Has Molly so sense of self-preservation? She just jumps right in there without letting anyone know. Duhh. Then there’s the conclusion Molly comes to about Maureen. Oh, boy. Lots of conclusion-jumping. I’m not saying she’s wrong, just that there aren’t a lot of clues before Molly “discovers” the truth. Then there’s the mother superior. She was awfully accepting of what occurred. Where has she been when all this has been going on if she’s so bright? It seems that Molly would have done better to tell Daniel what she suspected when she first arrived back in New York, rather than running about. She did promise, after all. The two of them have some work ahead of them, for neither trusts the other.

I do sympathize with Molly. I wouldn’t take well to someone ordering me about, especially if I’ve been independent for so long. Then again, she’s not paying any attention to the the fact that she’s pregnant…

It’s unexpected to have another rape theme (it’s minor to the story) going on when I recently read another novel with one. And it just points up how very wrong our culture has been for too long, and in some cases, still is in blaming only the woman when she’s raped. It’s one thing when the sex is consensual, but in too many cases, it’s not. Nor can you blame the woman when it’s the man who has the muscle and can do as he pleases. I’ll never understand how people can twist it around and put it on the weaker party.

The Story

Molly is torn between her memories of an active, independent life and the promise she’s made to Daniel.

That letter she receives addressed to P. Riley Associates does not help and, well, it seems such an innocuous request.

The Characters

Molly Murphy is well-and-gone pregnant and chafing at the bit. Between Daniel and everyone else, they all want her concentrating on a healthy baby. So unreasonable of them… Captain Daniel Sullivan is with the New York Police Department, an extraordinary man for the time, he is torn between worry and admiration. Mother Sullivan is still poking and digging at how unsuitable Molly is, and how much better Daniel could have done. Jonah is Mrs. Sullivan’s man-of-all-work; Bridie is learning how to be a good servant, although to be fair, Mrs. Sullivan almost treats her like one of the family.

Augusta “Gus” Walcott is one of the Boston Walcotts. She and her partner, Elena “Sid” Goldfarb, are Molly’s neighbors and friends back in New York. They adore Molly, in part, because life is always exciting around her. Sarah Lindley is a “fellow suffragist friend of Gus and Sid’s”, working at a settlement house in the Lower East Side.

Maureen O’Byrne emigrated from Ireland, and her aunt and uncle haven’t heard from her in the past year. Mrs. Harriet Mainwaring gave Maureen a job as a parlormaid. Seems there’s a Harriet who’s also a parlormaid there and Anna is yet another maid with an interesting tidbit.

Florrie is kidnapped right out of her buggy and her mother, Martha Wagner, is distraught.

The convent’s inhabitants include:
Sister Perpetua is the mother superior’s second-in-command; Sister Jerome manages the pregnant girls; Sister Francine was the nice one who helped deliver the babies; and, Sister Angelique is the sadistic one. The pregnant, unmarried girls include Katy Watson, Emily Robbins who has since gone home (although we may see her again!), Blanche, Gerda, Peggy, Elaine, Aggie, Alice, and Ethel.

Sister Mary Vincent is Sister Jerome’s sister by blood. She’s with the Sisters of Charity under Mother Seton.

John Clifton is to be Emily’s intended. Monk Eastman is a crime boss with whom the police — and Daniel — have an understanding.

John Wilkie, the head of the Secret Service, still wants Molly to work for him. And if she won’t or can’t, he’ll still make use of her. Liam Murphy is Molly’s younger brother and one she thought was hiding out in France! Malachy is the baby of the Murphy family, and it appears that he’s still being “looked after by Mr. O’Brien” in Ireland. Why hasn’t Molly done something to bring Malachy over? Barney is one of Liam’s mates.

The Cover and Title

The cover is quite colorful with that burning heat as a cautious Molly makes her way through the brownstoned neighborhood.

The title reflects the theme of this story, for it’s all about being in The Family Way.