Murder In the North End
by P.B. Ryan
Review by F.L. Swinford
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0425212955
Date: 07 November, 2006 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Set in the Summer of 1870, this historical mystery is filled with details of life in 19th century Boston. Nell Sweeney is a governess for the Hewetts, one of the old and wealthy families of Boston. Her friend, Colin Cook, a police officer, is wanted for killing a petty criminal in the North End and the police think that Nell knows where the Irish cop is hiding.
Of course, the police have it all wrong. Nell does not know where he is hiding, but she does know that Colin could not commit murder. If the police will not look for the real killer, then Nell will. She will prove that Colin is innocent.
The logical starting place is the slums of the North End, where the Irish immigrants have settled. Nell has to dress down to move freely among the immigrants living in this shanty-town slum. Many of the people she meets and talks with have very colorful personalities and habits. Among those who provide clues as they talk with Nell is a woman everyone calls Mother. She operates a sort of pub or tavern and has a finger in most everything illicit going on in the North End. Using information gleaned from Mother, Nell is certain she can find who the real killer is and clear Colin Cook of the murder charge.
If you like good historical mystery, you will be impressed by Ryan's knowledge of the time and place. It is evident that a lot of research was done to make sure that even the small details are accurate. Throughout the story, one sees how difficult it was to be Irish and an immigrant in a Boston where the old, established families and traditions are all from English roots. The Irish immigrants certainly did face a great deal of ingrained prejudice, and this provides an interesting backdrop for Ryan's story.