Boston, 1868. The Gilded Age. Irish immigrant and nurse-governess Nell Sweeney is asked to find a way to exonerate a young man of murder charges.

Her employers, the Hewitts, believed that both their boys were killed in the Civil War, until they learn their son William is in jail. Nell is trying to use her wits and knowledge of the city's underside to set him free. Sidestepping the authorities (i.e., the persistent Detective Cook) and William's own determination to ruin his life because of guilt, Nell negotiates the labyrinth surrounding the murder to expose the truth.

Ryan (aka romance novelist Patricia Ryan) enriches this well-plotted mystery with her keen sense of the era and insight into her characters. This debut mystery is a winner, with a feisty heroine, a colorful historical backdrop and a strong mystery rife with complexities. An ideal blend of history and mystery. (Jul., 320 pp., $6.50)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin