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The Last Illusion (Molly Murphy Mysteries) Hardcover – March 2, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in New York City in 1903, Bowen's winning ninth Molly Murphy mystery (after 2009's In a Gilded Cage) opens with a magic show at Miner's Theatre on the Bowery, attended by Molly and her fiancé, police captain Daniel Sullivan, who wants her to give up her unconventional profession of private investigator. When the sawing-a-lady-in-half trick goes fatally wrong, this horrible accident brings the evening's entertainment to an early end, preventing Molly and Daniel from seeing the show's main attraction, Harry Houdini. After both Signor Scarpelli, the magician whose stage equipment was apparently sabotaged, and his female assistant's corpse disappear, Houdini's wife, Bess, who worries an enemy of her husband is out to get him, asks Molly for help. Later, an act the handcuff king attempts almost ends in another death, confirming Bess's fears. The gutsy Molly, who's no prim Edwardian miss, will appeal to fans of contemporary female detectives. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Molly Murphy witnesses a terrible accident at a magical-illusion show and soon finds herself pulled into the dangerous and mysterious world of illusionists in early-twentieth-century New York City. Hired by Bess Houdini, Molly is tasked with preventing Houdini from being killed on stage, something that Bess desperately fears after a string of accidents at the theater. But the illusionists are a tight-lipped group who refuse to share their secrets. Fortunately, Molly has some inside help in the form of her fiancé, Daniel, a police captain. His help comes with strings, however, as Daniel disapproves of Molly working such a dangerous case, especially as he really wishes she was planning their wedding. Despite sparring with Daniel, Molly perseveres with the case. With plot elements including a counterfeiting scheme and German spies (in addition to Houdini), this historical mystery delivers a top-notch, detail-rich story full of intriguing characters. Fans of the 1920s private detective Maisie Dobbs should give this series a try. --Jessica Moyer
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Product Details

  • Series: Molly Murphy Mysteries (Book 9)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312385404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312385408
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #993,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rhys Bowen's books have been nominated for every major mystery award and she has won thirteen of them to date. She currently writes two historical mystery series, each very different in tone. The Molly Murphy mysteries feature an Irish immigrant woman in turn-of-the-century New York City. These books are multi-layered, complex stories with a strong sense of time and place and have won many awards including Agatha and Anthony. There are 13 book so far in this series plus two Kindle stories, The Amersham Rubies and The Face in the Mirror--a great way to introduce new readers to Molly's spunky personality.

Then there is Lady Georgie, Rhys's latest,and very popular, heroine. She's 35th in line to the throne of England, but she's flat broke and struggling to survive in the Great Depression. These books are lighter and funnier than Molly's adventures. They poke gentle fun at the British class system--about which Rhys knows a lot, having married into an upper class family rather like Georgie's, with cousins with silly nicknames,family ghosts and stately homes. The ninth book in the series, Malice at the Palace was published August 2015 and the previous book, Queen of Hearts, just won the Agatha award for best historical mystery.
The series received the Readers Choice Award for favorite mystery series and Rhys was nominated for career achievement.

Rhys was born in Bath, England but spent time during her childhood with relatives in Wales. Those childhood experiences colored her first mystery series, about Constable Evans in the mountains of Snowdonia. 10 books including the Edgar nominee Evan's Gate. She has lived in Austria, Germany and Australia, but has called California her home for many years. She now escapes to a condo in Arizona during those cold California winters. When she's not writing she loves to travel, sing, hike, paint and play the Celtic harp.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Molly and Daniel are enjoying a rare evening out viewing some magicians perform. Molly is especially excited because Harry Houdini is supposed to be the headliner that night. But then tragedy strikes and a magician's assistant is sawed in half on stage before Houdini can even go on.

The next morning, Houdini's wife, Bess, appears at Molly's door. Bess is convinced that the "accident" the night before was intended as a warning to Houdini, who seems to be troubled ever since they got back from Europe. Molly agrees to help find out what is really happening and try to protect the famous magician. But then another suspicious accident happens on stage. Can Molly find out the truth in time to protect Houdini?

I've got to admit I was a little shocked with just how quickly this book started. We open at the theater with the first incident about to happen. And the plot never really slows down from there. I pieced together a few things before Molly, but I didn't get the complete picture until the end. The end did seem a bit abrupt, but that's my only real complaint.

The characters were their normal, charming selves. I just can't help but smile at the antics of some of Molly's more outrageous friends. I actually found myself siding with Daniel in some of his squabbles with Molly this time around, too, which means I might finally have forgiven him for some of his past actions.

This was another great entry I couldn't read fast enough. Fans of the series will be thrilled.
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By A Customer on March 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In 1903 in New York City Molly Murphy and her fiancé police captain Daniel Sullivan attend a magic show at the Miner's Theatre on the Bowery headlined by the great Harry Houdini. However, their night out on the town turns ugly when the stunt of sawing-a-lady-in-half by magician Signor Scarpelli goes awry even before Houdini was to perform.

Someone obviously tampered with Scarpelli's equipment before the performance. Even further shocking is the corpse of the magician's assistant disappears. Worried that the intended target was her spouse, Houdini's wife Bess hires Molly to investigate while Daniel directs his fiancée to stay out of the way of the official inquiry. When Houdini's act almost also ends fatalyl, Molly agrees with Bess that her husband is the prey for a maniacal predator.

Proving once again she is not a coddled women In a Gilded Cage, Molly investigates while Daniel, who also is on the case, pleading with her to stay out of it as it is dangerous. Their inquiries make for a superb historical whodunit that brings to life Manhattan at the turn of the previous century while also cleverly refreshed by having Houdini appear to be the victim.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I always like historical fiction and have read all of the Molly Murphy books. This one was no exception but I thought it took a while to "catch" me. It ended with interest but I really took longer to read this than most books. Usually if I really like a book I will stay up late to read it. I did not do this until the very end. But, that said, I will read the next one.
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Format: Hardcover
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A recent immigrant from Ireland, Molly Murphy works as a private investigator in New York City in the early 1900's. Officially Molly handles missing persons cases and divorce investigations, but usually ends up in the middle of major crime.

In The Last Illusions, Molly attends the theater with her fiancee, Captain Daniel Sullivan of the New York Police, to see illusionists perform amazing tricks. The headliner for the evening is Harry Houdini. Before Houdini can come on stage, a previous act ends in tragedy . Scarpelli's act of sawing a woman in half is sabotaged. Scarpelli's assistant, a young lady, is seriously injured and the theater closed for the evening.

Captain Sullivan rushes to the stage and declares it a crime scene. Molly is sent to calm Mrs. Houdini, Bess, who decides to hire her to protect her husband Harry. Daniel and Harry are both uncomfortable with Molly "protecting" Harry, but Beth hires Molly anyway to watch him and help him with his act.

While operating with Houdini, Molly works on the fringes of a counterfeit gang and possible plots against Houdini and the United States government. Can Molly protect Bess and Harry without endangering herself? What possible reason would anyone have to ruin or kill Houdini? Why would a major crime organization be involved with Houdini and possibly counterfeiting?

The Last Illusion is well written. The characters are clearly described and the scenes colorful and detailed. This is a suspenseful novel with a bit of intrigue and a pleasant repartee concerning the place of women in society.

I recommend this novel.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the ninth book in the delightful Molly Murphy series of historical mysteries that take place in the turn of the twentieth century New York City. This time our feisty heroine finds herself in heady company indeed. When she and her fiancé, New York City Detective Daniel Sullivan, go to see Harry Houdini, the great illusionist, on the New York stage, Molly is thrilled. Unfortunately, before Houdini takes the stage, another illusionist seemingly makes an unfortunate error when he tries to saw his assistant in half, and the whole show is called off.

In the aftermath of the disastrous opening act, Bess, Houdini's wife, and Molly strike up a conversation. Discovering that Molly is a private detective, Beth hires her to look out for Houdini, as she suspects someone means him harm. So, despite Daniel's admonishments about giving up her chosen career now that they are getting married, Molly goes all out to discover just what exactly is going on.

As always, the author skillfully captures the feel of a bygone era, and the story is rife with period detail and highly atmospheric. This is a well-written book with an intriguing plot and characters that will fully engage the reader. As with all cozy mysteries, it is not so much the mystery that is of import but the characters that revolve around the mystery. While the mystery is intriguing, it is the framework around which the characters evolve. Those who like the historical cozy mystery genre will definitely enjoy this entertaining series.
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