I have read the 28th book for the book challenge. It is The Family Way by Rhys Bowen.
In this book in the Molly Murphy mystery series, Molly Murphy Sullivan is eight months pregnant with her first child. It is summer in New York City and it is hot and sticky. Daniel has been after to Molly to travel to Westchester County to stay with his mother to get out of the city where it is cooler and to rest. But Molly would like to help Daniel with his cases. She is restless.
Molly goes one day to collect the mail and there is a letter for her old private detective agency. It is from a family in Ireland who is trying to contact a niece of theirs who was in domestic service in New York city. They have not heard from her in a long while and they are worried about her and have contacted the agency to discover the girl’s, Maureen O’Byrne, whereabouts. Molly knows she shouldn’t take this on as Daniel would disapprove but she thinks that looking into it wouldn’t hurt. As it is, she is looking for a girl to take on as a servant in her own home to help with the housework and the baby.
She goes to the Lower East Side to visit an employment agency and a friend there. While there, she asks the agency if they know this young girl or the family she was working for. They do not. Then there is a kidnapping of a baby right on the street in broad daylight! A baby was taken from its stroller in front of the butcher’s. There have been many kidnappings in this area for ransom and it is becoming a big problem. No one saw anything and the mother is distraught. Then Molly sees her own brother Liam on a New York street! He tells her to forget that she has seen him, that is is dangerous to him and to her. She knows he is working for the Irish Republican Brotherhood and he goes back into the shadows. She is resigned to never seeing him again.
With her friends Sid and Gus gone to Newport, Rhode Island for vacation, Molly decides to go to Hudson to spend time with her mother-in law. At a tea party there, she overhears the name of the family that the girl Maureen was a servant with: Mainwaring. They have a house in Irvington. Molly makes up a story to tell her mother-in-law that she is a friend of a friend of Mrs. Mainwaring and she is going to pay a call on them. She visits them and asks about Maureen. She finds out that Maureen was pregnant and went to a convent in Tarrytown to have her baby and was supposed to return to the Mainwaring’s after she had her baby but never returned.
Molly then arranges a day trip to Tarrytown and goes to the convent to see the nuns and to ask about Maureen. The nuns are a cloistered order and she talks to Sister Jerome from behind a screen about Maureen. She tells Molly that Maureen vanished one morning before she was scheduled to leave and she hasn’t been seen and no one knows what happened to her. Another girl, Katy, who is also pregnant, as are all the girls there, seems uneasy about Maureen’s disappearance. Maureen left behind her beautiful hairbrush and a special statue of the Blessed Mother, which was very strange indeed.
Molly leaves but makes plans to go back and try to get back in as one of the girls and learn more. Sid and Gus return from their vacation and come up to stay at the inn in Tarrytown and Molly and young Bridie stay with them. Then Molly goes back to the convent and tries to pass as one of the girls for just a little while to learn more. She finds that Katy is dead (she had wanted to offer Katy a job). She had fallen down some stairs and died. The nuns accept Molly as one of the girls because they think Molly will have a red-haired baby and they are looking for a red-haired baby. Molly finds a suitcase filled with money in Sister Jerome’s room, thousands of dollars and papers that list thousands of dollars worth of transactions of selling babies. Molly is horrified. Is Sister Jerome enriching herself? She finds the sisters’ crypt where the sisters are buried and realizes that when Sister Francine died, that Maureen was killed because she wouldn’t give up her baby and her body was hidden in Sister Francine’s tomb by Sister Jerome. Now Molly must confront Sister Jerome and save herself and her baby and find out what Sister Jerome is doing with the money and help the other girls.
There are a number of complicated mysteries for Molly to solve in The Family Way and she attacks them in the typical Molly Murphy way, with rational skill and cunning, but with no thought for danger. She puts herself in harm’s way. It’s good that Daniel doesn’t know what she’s done.
This is an enjoyable book with many puzzles to figure out. There is the puzzle of the kidnappings, Molly’s brother Liam and his involvement with the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Maureen O’Byrne and the Mainwarings, the pregnant girls at the convent and their babies, the nuns and their involvement with the girls, and Sister Jerome and her involvement with the babies and the Irish Republican Brotherhood. So many interconnected puzzle pieces. So much fun.