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The Last Illusion (Molly Murphy) by Rhys Bowen
Review by Beth Slater
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312385408
Date: 02 March 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Molly Murphy returns in her ninth adventure in early 1900s New York City as a rare female private investigator, and an Irish one at that. Molly and her fianc้, Daniel, are at an illusionists' show where Houdini is the main performer, when tragedy strikes during the opening act. Never before performed in living history, the illusionist Scarpelli attempts to saw through his assistant when it goes horribly wrong! Houdini never even takes the stage when the rest of the show is canceled and Daniel, as a Captain in the police force, takes over and Molly escorts Mrs. Houdini to her rooms to calm her – but not before Scarpelli shocks everyone by stridently accusing Houdini of tampering with his equipment so that the illusion would fail!

Houdini, known as "The King of Handcuffs", is not a favorite amongst the other illusionists. His act has put many others out of business by the quality of his act, and the secrets of the trade are guarded very, very closely. Despite this, it is still quite a surprise when Bess Houdini arrives on Molly's doorstep and announces that she wants to hire her to protect her husband, Harry. Molly, needless to say, is taken aback. Bess' intuition is in high gear, and so Molly agrees to observe - and she soon finds out that there is a lot more going on, more secrets than illusions in that theater, than meets the eye.

Throughout all this Daniel is struggling with his own case – that of Scarpelli, the opening act whose saw wasn't an illusion, but his disappearance afterwards was quite real. Not to mention the Director of the Secret Service arriving to brief him on the influx of forged money that has been arriving in various cities – obviously an important case. But Daniel's first concern was Molly and her safety, and their marriage. How would their marriage work if Molly was constantly in danger with her cases? If she continued with this work, he would get no respect from his co-workers. If Mr. Wilkie can see how valuable she is, then why can't Daniel? (read the book)

Molly's ability to think on her feet and piece puzzles together, as well as use the resources she has at hand and to see beyond what is in front of her enable her to be an excellent detective and people person. She used all of those skills to solve the cases (yes, plural) in The Last Illusion, which I enjoyed immensely.

I should clarify – I enjoyed the cases. I didn't enjoy Molly and Daniel. I wanted to smack Molly, and well, Daniel. I've wanted to get rid of him and bury the body through most of the series. He's a typical male of the times, and if he can't love Molly for who she is - that's who he fell in love with, isn't it? – then he should leave the picture. Molly is an independent, inquisitive woman and not a stay at home and twiddle her thumbs person. She'd be miserable. That's what he's asking. I have no patience for him. For Molly to act this way – please. Think I'm upset, you bet -- but that's just how real these characters are. If you've read the series, you understand. If you haven't get started, now.

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