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The Ghost of Christmas Past

The Ghost of Christmas Past A Molly Murphy Mystery by Rhys Bowen St. Martin's Press Minotaur Books Historical Fiction Pub Date 14 Nov 2017


Rhys Bowen’s newest Molly Murphy novel is an entertaining holiday mystery, offering a taste of early 20th century celebrations as well as an interesting plot. Unfortunately it isn't without problems.

In The Ghost of Christmas Past, Molly Murphy Sullivan and her family accept an invitation to celebrate the holidays with the family of an old friend of Captain Sullivan’s mother. While the estate is sumptuous, there is tension in the house. Winnie is clearly afraid of her husband Cedric, and is still in mourning for the daughter who disappeared 10 years earlier. Cedric continually claims Winnie is unstable - and appears to be seeking any excuse to have her committed. Naturally Molly wants to help, but is there anything that can be discovered after so long a time?

For most of the novel, Molly attempts to uncover the closely held secrets of the family. While the story is intriguing, it isn’t without weakness. Her husband, irritatingly and repetitively takes Cedric’s side, representing “convention”. Cedric couldn’t be more clearly the villain. The only thing that would make him more obvious is a black hat and a twirling mustache. There are also a few coincidences that are difficult to accept (as in 1 in a million chance of happening) but I won’t spoil the surprise. I liked the female characters. Rhys Bowen definitely makes more of an effort developing them as individuals. The men, on the other hand were little more than cardboard cutouts.

I liked The Ghost of Christmas Past. It is a good choice if you are in a holiday mood. It is entertaining, but it definitely isn’t a great novel. It will likely be enjoyed most by fans of the series.

3 / 5

I received a copy of The Ghost of Christmas Past from the publisher and



From Rhys Bowen, the author of In Farleigh Field, comes the next Molly Murphy mystery: The Ghost of Christmas Past. Semi-retired private detective Molly Murphy Sullivan is suffering from depression after a miscarriage following her adventure in San Francisco during the earthquake of 1906. She and her husband, Daniel, are invited for Christmas at a mansion on the Hudson, and they gratefully accept, expecting a peaceful and relaxing holiday season. Not long after they arrive, however, they start to feel the tension in the house’s atmosphere. Then they learn that the host couple's young daughter wandered out into the snow ten years ago and was never seen again. Molly can identify with the mother's pain at never knowing what happened to her child and wants to help, but there is so little to go on. No ransom note. No body ever found. But Molly slowly begins to suspect that the occupants of the house know more than they are letting on. Then, on Christmas Eve, there is a knock at the door and a young girl stands there. "I'm Charlotte," she says. "I've come home."

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