Murder in a Mill Town
The lowborn Fallons haven’t come to the Hewitt household for a handout, they’ve come for help — the kind of help only Nell Sweeney can give. Their wayward daughter, Bridget, is missing and they don’t know whether she’s gone off with her brute of a boyfriend or if she’s met with a bad end.
2nd in the Gilded Age Mystery series
Author: P. B. Ryan
ISBN: 0-425-19715-8 (Berkley)
Finished: 10 July 2007
Who: Nell Sweeney, governess and Dr. William Hewitt
When: September 1868 – five months after first book
Once again, Viola Hewitt calls on Nell to help solve a mystery. Though neither knows it at the time, one of the prime suspects in the mystery is Viola’s third son, Harry. An altercation between Harry and herself, earlier in the year, has led Nell to believe that Harry is capable of anything. Will, the other hand, isn’t so sure — even after he hears what happened between Nell and his brother.
Back in Boston, supposedly for a high-stakes poker game, Will joins the investigation. A big contrast from the first book, Will is no longer indulging in opium to ward of the pain in his leg, though he still takes morphine. This results in a more lucid, coherent sleuthing partner. Nell and Will are an excellent team, scouring crime scenes, performing autopsies, and debating the plausibility of Harry being the culprit.
Though this is primarily a mystery series, the relationship between Nell and Will is very prominent. Will has given up most of his self-destructive habits and is very much in love with Nell, though it is never said outright. His actions are more telling. Nell’s belief in him is his lifeline. Regardless of their deep trust and rapport, Nell has secrets. Secrets that could see her fired from her job as Gracie Hewitt’s governess, something that would destroy her for she loves Gracie as if she was Nell’s own child. Her fear of what would happen if anyone knew the truth has kept her from telling Will. It’s only a matter of time before he does learn it, and he is devastated. He eventually comes to understand and appreciate Nell’s reasons, but not before he does something stupid and nearly loses her to a murdering loon.
I love this series. After finishing the book, I had to go back and re-read scenes and I even pulled out the first book to re-read much of Nell and Will’s many conversations again. It’s a wonderful series and I’ll be sad to see it end. The author announced that the 6th book will be the last
“Will! Are you all right?”
“Yes, splendid. I quite like being humiliated in front of beautiful women. Improves the character.”
— Nell and Will, who took a tumble into a stream