Rhys Bowen's third novel in the award-winning Molly Murphy mystery series is a story sure to be recognized on its own merit. A combination of Murphy's Irish temper, loyalty to her chosen profession and stubbornness make for good reading.
After the death of her mentor, Murphy sticks with her attempt to earn a living as a female private detective in turn-of-the-century New York City. When she stakes out a client's husband as a possible wife-cheater, her troubles multiply. She's not welcome in bars or on the street late at night, places necessary for a private eye to operate. More than once, she is harassed by the New York City Police who mistake her for a criminal. Murphy is reluctant to seek help from her former lover, Captain Daniel Sullivan, at the precinct. But more than once he intervenes on her behalf.
Murphy's spunky spirit pulls her out of the doldrums on numerous occasions. At a time when she is penniless, without a client and nearly giving up, an opportunity comes her way to persevere. She's involved in the women's rights issues of the day when she takes on a case to locate a mole in the garment industry. Labor unions, gangland mischief and further tangles with the law become her daily companions.
At the same time, Murphy has accepted a missing person search for a family in Ireland. Their daughter, Katherine, has fled to the United States with her lover, Michael. Her father has reason to think that the runaways may have gone to New York City. Murphy's research leads her to a dead end. It appears as if the girl and her husband may have been murdered. However, Murphy doggedly follows any lead that might promise a positive outcome.
Bowen's Murphy is determined, relentless, plucky, pretty and definitely possesses an Irish temperament. She is stubborn when offered help, preferring her own instincts for survival. The men in her life seek to protect her, but she sees their attempts as interference. Jacob Singer vies with Capt. Sullivan for Murphy's love, but she puts her job ahead of them both. There is no satisfaction for the reader who wants a neat romantic knot tied.
FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE is full of the flavor of New York City at the turn of the century. Sweatshop turmoil and the plight of the lower end immigrant worker are given colorful treatment. The infancy of labor union struggles and women's suffrage movements are well documented. FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE is a well-paced and well-researched mystery novel that leaves the invitation open to the next book in the Molly Murphy series.
--- Reviewed by Judy Gigstad