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The Last Illusion (Molly Murphy Mysteries) Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 2011

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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Molly Murphy Mysteries (Book 9)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031253535X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312535353
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #532,911 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 seventh book is called Heirs and Graces, and on November 5th The Twelve Clues of Christmas comes out in paperback, perfect timing for the holidays.
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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mark Baker - Carstairs Considers HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 17, 2010
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Elaine R. Weaver on April 23, 2010
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. M Young VINE VOICE on October 4, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Still torn between her love for police officer Daniel Sullivan and her own need for independence, private investigator Molly Murphy and Sullivan attend a vaudeville performance where the famous Harry Houdini will perform one of the acts. But during the act before Houdini's, the magician's assistant is mortally wounded. It is through this gruesome crime that Molly meets Bess Houdini, who wishes to hire Molly to protect her husband--Bess fears this violent act is a further threat to her husband, whom she feels is being followed. Although Daniel tells her not to get involved, Molly complies with Bess' wish. And, sure enough, at the least someone appears to want Houdini dead--or at least out of business.

I usually gobble these stories up, but I found I had a lot of trouble getting through this one. Not sure if I just wasn't interested in the Houdini storyline or was a bit weary with Molly's wavering between her job and her man, although I find her predicament understandable given the era. Perhaps it was just because her friends Sid and Gus had so little time. Many interesting facts were included about Houdini and his family, including the technique of several magic tricks (fans of the television series REMEMBER WENN will be familiar with at least one), and at least one facet of his life I found very surprising; not to mention Bowen's descriptions of the New York heat wave were very evocative. Just was a bit ambivalent about the story as a whole. YMMV!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sharon K. Maher on March 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The latest in Molly's escapades is as good as always. It will be interesting to see where life takes her once she and Daniel marry. This book involves the great Houdini, and as always, is full of suspense and interest.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Curious Reader on March 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Once again, Rhys Bowen has created a memorable story. The Last Illusion is the latest in the Molly Murphy series. As a female detective, in an era not accustomed to women holding positions of strength, her process almost produces a shout from the reader, "you go girl!"

It was quite fascinating to see Bowen take a delightful fictional character in Molly Murphy and synergize her with an actual historical figure, Harry Houdini. The writing was clever, informative and of the highest caliber.

A long time Rhys Bowen fan, I still recommend for first time readers that you start at the beginning and watch Molly grow and season throughout the entire series of nine books. You will not be disappointed but instead, enlightened and entertained.
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