Murder in the North End
Author: P. B. Ryan
Copyright: 2006 (Berkley); 230 pgs.
Series: 5th in the Gilded Age Mystery series
Where & When: Boston, July 1870
Who: Nell Sweeney, governess, and Dr. William Hewitt
Summary: Colin Cook was the only officer in the city’s Detective Bureau not to be found guilty of corruption and to escape being demoted or fired. But now he is a fugitive, wanted for killing a petty criminal in Boston’s North End, and the police believe Nell knows where the Irish cop is hiding. Nell doesn’t know where Colin is, nor does she believe her friend is capable of murder. To prove his innocence, she descends into the seedy and dangerous slums of the North End to look into the matter. Nell isn’t afraid of her fellow immigrants in the neighborhood, but Dr. Will Hewitt has his doubts — and he won’t let her conduct the investigation alone.
Comments: The Hewitts have gone to the Cape for their annual summer retreat, but Nell has remained in Boston to clear Detective Cook’s name. The odious, and disgraced, ex-detective Charles Skinner is sure that Nell is conspiring to keep him hidden, and he has threatened Nell. This doesn’t weaken her resolve to help her friend, but it puts her in danger. Before she gets far in the investigation, Will shows up and offers to help her — and protect her from Skinner.
Will has returned from Shanghai, having realized that it’s too easy to give in to temptation. Will rather not loose his hard-won battle against opium addiction, or loose Nell’s regard, by returning to old habits. But nothing has changed for him in Boston, so Will is still in the same predicament he was before — in love with a woman he can’t have. He has two job offers to contemplate while helping Nell clear Cook’s name: take the five year teaching contract at Harvard, or go to France at President Grant’s request. Something has changed, though. Nell has begun to question her devotion to the Catholic Church. Will’s words to her at Gracie’s birthday party,the previous year, have affected her more than he knows — that it would be the Church, not God, turning its back on her if she was excommunicated. For the first time, Nell is willing to pursue a divorce.
The ending is even more heart breaking than the previous book.
“You befriended me when I needed a friend, you saved me when I needed a savior. Your presence in my life has shone a light upon my soul that will never be extinguished. For that precious gift, I shall be forever in your debt.”
— Will’s note to Nell
Started: 7 June 2008
Finished: 7 June 2008