Time of Fog and Fire (Molly Murphy)
by Rhys Bowen
Cover Artist: Woman by Shirley Green;
Pained Ladies Houses, San Francisco by Amit Basi; Photography / Getty Images
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250052070
Date: 07 March 2017 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Set in 1906, the Time of Fog and Fire follows Molly Sullivan as she seeks to find her missing husband amid the turmoil of Enrico Caruso's planned concert and the ensuing earthquake that destroys San Francisco. Initially, she is told her husband is dead and she decides to find his murderer. However, when she loses her son amid the earthquake, her plans change and a fight for survival begins.
Molly Sullivan nee Murphy is the wife of a NY police captain who is incorruptible and Catholic, leading to suspicion from his corrupt colleagues. She is a former private enquiry agent. When she receives a strange letter from her husband Daniel to join him in San Francisco, she is undecided. Daniel is currently on a special hush-hush mission for John Wilkie, head of the U.S. Secret Service. Molly had no idea what the assignment was nor where. The handwriting of the letter is Daniel's.
She packs up her toddler Liam and takes the four-day train trip to San Francisco. Along the way, she meets a young man who is a facilitator for the Metropolitan Opera Company. He is to oversee the arrangements for Enrico Caruso's performance with the company in San Francisco. Luckily for Molly, he is able to provide her with a place to stay when they arrive.
Daniel had mentioned staying with a woman named Bella Rodriguez so Molly decides to find her. When she tracks the woman down, Bella immediately invites Molly to stay with her and arranges for a Chinese nanny for Liam. She puts Molly in touch with the police who tell her Daniel is dead and has been buried. Heartbroken, Molly decides she must find out what happened and what assignment Daniel had been working on for Mr. Wilkie. She's determined to find the killer.
Meanwhile, Bella insists Molly attend some of the receptions planned for Caruso. Molly is reluctant, but hoping to gather information as she decides her next move. At one party she meets a professor who is an expert on Mark Twain. Molly had met Twain in New York at one time. She senses something familiar about the professor, but can't place it.
Suddenly, Molly's efforts are interrupted by the beginning of the 1906 earthquake. She rushes to Bella's only to discover the nanny has fled to Chinatown with Liam. Molly tries to follow, but is caught in the next wave of the quake and knocked unconscious. She wakes in a makeshift hospital and discovers she is being sent to Golden Gate Park with survivors. She makes a break for freedom and returns to Bella's amid the destruction and raging fires.
This is Bowen's sixteenth Molly Murphy Mystery. She also writes the Constable Evans Mysteries. Bowen handles the confusion and aftermath of the quake with a firm hand and takes the reader along for ride. Mass confusion ensues and searching for one small boy becomes a monumental task if indeed he survived. Molly is a survivor and lucky. Coincidence works in her favor and Bowen provides a neat resolution to the main story and the various subplots.