But things seem to unravel when he comes home to tell her they are moving from their modest home in Patchin Place to a fancy home on Fifth Avenue. He has decided to run for sheriff of New York on the Tammany Hall ticket. She cannot understand this change in Daniel since he has had a long opposition to the Tammany record of corruption. Now she must deal with bodyguards, servants, and her bills paid for by Tammany boss, William “Big Bill” McCormick.
As with most of the books there is a glimpse into the society of the times. Their ward, Bridie, has been attending a wealthy private school, paid for by Molly’s friends Sid and Gus. She is being picked on for being poor and smart. That is until she helps to rescue Blanche McCormick, Big Bill’s daughter, from a fire aboard a tour boat. Afterward Bridie and Blanche become BBFs.
The mystery also involves the killing of Big Bill, found dead in a locked room. Everyone is wondering if the real-life William Randolph Hearst had something to do with it since his investigative reporter of Tammany Hall has disappeared. Now Molly and Daniel must go undercover to investigate and find the killer.
The characters added to the intriguing story. It alerts readers to the ever-changing times and the realism makes for an insightful plot.
Elise Cooper: What was it like working as a mother/daughter team?
Rhys Bowen: I had put the Molly Murphy series on hiatus because I simply did not have the time to write three books a year. I knew Clare was a very good writer and since she wanted to give it a go, I said ‘let’s give it a try.’ She read through the whole series, seventeen books, and was able to find Molly’s voice perfectly. It has been seamless. At the end no one could tell who wrote what. In the third book, Clare wrote the end of the book by herself.
Clare Broyles: Writing with my mom is fun. We spark each other as we come up with ideas. As a mystery writer I had to consider how Molly could solve the crime in a clever way. I get to write a scene and have this amazing author, my mom, read the scene.
RB: We chat with each other every evening, making writing not a solitary profession. We can create together more and exciting scenes.
EC: How did you get the idea for the story?
CB: We wanted to do something with a wealthy Fifth Avenue story. Every single day the book takes place I read the New York Times for that day. One story had a mail bag ripped open and the mail flew everywhere. I thought, what if a letter contained important information that someone else got a hold of. I also read how a pleasure cruise caught fire on the Hudson. Finally, there were some stories of how Tammany Hall sparred with William Randolph Hearst who joined with the Republicans in attempting to win the Mayorship of New York. From there we decided to make a wealthy school friend of Bridie, the soon-to-be adopted daughter of Molly, a daughter of a Tammany Hall official.
EC: You set up the characters before the mystery comes into play?
RB: In the Rhys Bowen books a body is not usually found before page 100. I tend to bring my characters together, allow the readers to watch them interact, and then someone is killed. We very rarely have a body early in the book. There is a mystery in the beginning since Molly cannot believe that her husband Daniel accepted a job with Tammany Hall without consulting her. Molly always will have a personal life.
EC: Molly is not thrilled with Daniel over his unilateral decisions?
CB: Molly likes to do things herself. She is proud of keeping her house and raising her child. She never looked for an easier life. She feels out of place having to move to Fifth Avenue in a house Tammany Hall has given Daniel. It is her Irish background where she feels out of place with the gentry. She is not very good at giving orders to servants. She enjoys raising her child and being with him.
RB: As a husband of the time, he is remarkably understanding. A husband of the time could say he does not want Molly doing detective work, beat her, and a woman had no claim on the property or the children. A wife was really another possession. He is scared for her because she does take risks. In the beginning, he asks Molly to trust him. There is a lot of Feminism in the Molly books.
EC: What role does the Tammany Hall official ‘Big Bill ‘play in the book?
CB: He represents several different bosses in New York and New Jersey. They wanted to control the docks. I read of an official who had a two-sided desk, sliding it out so a person could put their bribe in it. The book is really about the relationship between him and his family with Molly, Daniel, and Bridie. Big Bill is overwhelming, charming, someone who likes to have his way, evil, corrupt, yet helps the downtrodden.
EC: What was the role of the Fifth Avenue house versus the house on Patchin Place?
CB: Having to move destabilized Molly and threw her off balance. She did not know how she was going to pay the servants.
RB: Molly could not wait to get back to Patchin Place especially since her neighbors and friends were across the street and her support group. She knows the rules there. She is much more comfortable in her own home.
EC: What about Big Bill’s wife, Lucy McCormick?
RB: She is a complete antithesis to her husband. He is the rough Irishman without refined manners who has learned how to manipulate, a classic mob boss. He married her for her money and position in society. She is a very loving mother, kind, and caring. She is not a snob and wanted to be friends with Molly.
CB: She is a kindred spirit with Molly. She also feels a bit trapped in her life, not really wanting to be involved in politics.
EC: Bridie’s friend, Blanche transformed?
RB: She transformed from a mean girl to a good friend. She represented a typical teenage girl. After being rescued by Molly and Bridie she realized they were good caring people. But she is obviously very spoiled. Girls at that age are a prowling pack and enjoy picking on someone different. Bridie is not like them since she is poorer than them and very bright. She made a judgement and saw how Bridie is supported by her family.
EC: What about the forensics?
CB: Before I came into the series Daniel was a big proponent of fingerprints. It is a new science at the time the book takes place. It is not admissible in court yet, but still can be useful to find the preparator.
RB: Autopsies had been done for a while. We are getting into the very beginnings of blood types and blood spatter, just around the corner. They are starting to get the scientific evidence to back up the “who done it.” This is one of the reasons I like writing these times, because the detective still must use their smarts.
EC: Next books?
RB: The secondary characters in this book will have a break in the next Molly book. It is summertime in New York, where school is not in session.
CB: Bridie is devasted that Blanche has gone to France for the summer. The family visits Daniel’s mom, Mrs. Sullivan. Molly is being driven crazy, so she gladly accepts an invitation to go to the Catskills with Sid and Gus. Three different communities are brought together: Sid and Gus are part of an artist’s colony, there is a new ranger there since the Catskills are now a state park, and in the bungalows are a fledgling Jewish colony. The murder has to do with a matchmaker.
RB: My historical novel is titled The Paris Assignment, published in August, even though the main action takes place outside Paris, ending up in Australia in the 1940s. There are two parallel stories going on in the book. The heroine acts as a courier for the allies. It was not an easy one to write because it tugs on readers’ heartstrings. THANK YOU!!