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Still Life with Murder (Gilded Age Mysteries, No. 1) Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 2003

873 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"With its rich sense of place and time and a crisp, intelligent plot, readers will speed through this tale and be clamoring for more." Bestselling author Earlene Fowler

"Utterly absorbing. Vividly alive characters in a setting so clearly portrayed that one could step right into it." Bestselling author Roberta Gellis

"This debut mystery is a winner, with a feisty heroine, a colorful historical backdrop and a strong mystery rife with complexities." Romantic Times BookReviews

About the Author

Patricia Ryan has written more than two dozen novels, which have garnered rave reviews and been published in over twenty countries. A RITA® winner (for Silken Threads) and four-time nominee, she is also the recipient of two Romantic Times Awards and a Mary Higgins Clark Award nomination for the second book of her bestselling historical mystery series featuring Boston governess Nell Sweeney, written under the name P.B. Ryan.

For updates about Pat's new releases and other news, subscribe to her newsletter at &


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425191060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425191064
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.9 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (873 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,583,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

261 of 268 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on January 11, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was up until 7am this morning reading this book and its sequel, Murder In a Milltown. Not since Owen Parry's Abel Jones series have I been so excited about a mystery series.

Nell Sweeney is a young woman with a dark past struggling to make a new life for herself assisting a physician when she is given the oppurtunity of a lifetime. Out of the blue, she's offered a position as governess to the wealthy Hewitt family's new ward, Grace. She knows that her scandalous past would disqualify her for the position but decideds to hide her past and take the job, hoping that this will bring the safety and security she's always wanted.

For a time all goes well, but Nell's carefully maintained new identity as straight-laced governess is put in jeapordy when her mentor and employer, Viola Hewitt, begs her to help save the eldest Hewitt son, Will, from hanging for murder. Unable to disappoint the woman who took such a chance on her, a poor unconnected Irish girl, Nell agrees to ivestigate the case. Suddenly, Nell is plunged back into a world of crime and poverty as she investigates the murder Will has been arrested for. Will, rich boy, martyr and rake, dominates every scene he is in. While his innocence is questionable, his charisma and the tragedy of his story soon have Nell determined to do everything she can to help him. While Will might be a bit of a cliche, the way he wears his frailties on his sleeve making him a worhty counterbalance to Nell's self concious propriety and righteousness. Their scenes together are some of the best in the book.

Still Life With Murder is teeming with fascinating characters. Nell's remarkable empathy with each of them, from Detective Cook to the prostitute Pearl to self-destructing Will Hewitt, make her not only a great amateur sleuth but the perfect guide through the posh parlors and rank opium dens of 19th century Boston.

An entertaining and satisfying read and a very promising series.
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151 of 155 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 14, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Excellent, excellent novel. A hopeless lover of mysteries, I will be the first to admit that 95% of the mystery novels out there are badly written and poorly conceived. "Still Life With Murder" is a true exception to that rule. I so enjoyed this world -- I am so glad that I picked this up at the bookstore. I am so devastated that I have finished it and that no sequel has been published yet.
The sleuth is no shrinking violet: born to a delicate age, she is anything but fragile and no where near naive. (Jane Austen would be shocked out of her little white bonnet.) The handsome, damaged, wildly charismatic and most-likely murderous William Hewitt had me swooning in my chair as if he were standing right in front of me -- cooly mocking and deadly enticing. Her characters are that well-drawn. And the setting, 1860's Boston, was marvelously vibrant. As a current-day resident of Boston, I learned so much about my adopted city's history. I will never be able to stroll trough the Public Gardens again without thinking of this book and hoping to find Nell and Dr. Hewitt engaged in furtive conversation on a bench nearby.
WORD TO THE WISE -- don't read the 1st review down there written by a highlighted reviewer -- they give WAY too much of the story away. The most enchanting part of this mystery is the mysterious sleuth herself -- the author knows what she is doing will let you know what she wants you to know WHEN she wants you to know it. Nell's history is meant to unfold slowly and tentatively throughout the novel.
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86 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Yeater on June 8, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Any astute mystery lover will figure out the identity of the killer fairly quickly, but a trip through the time machine back to post Civil-War Boston sets this book apart from the pack. Interesting characters make this book worth reading and I have just finished doing so. On the side table rests the next installment of Nell and company, MURDER IN A MILL TOWN which will be picked up shortly after this review is posted.

Do not understand one viewer complaining about sexual content--hardly any-just one or two VERY brief scenes describing nudity that was pertinent to the scene of the moment. While others rave and give 5 stars, I personally feel that 4 stars is the accurate rating because of the lack of mystery concerning the killer

Worth your time and recommended.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Christina Lockstein on June 8, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan is an amazing mystery. The characters of William Hewitt and Nell Sweeney leap off the page. Boston governess Nell is drawn into the underworld after presumed dead William Hewitt is arrested for the murder of a street thug. Long hidden secrets are revealed, including some of Nell's own. Ryan is a master at writing dialogue; it's rare that a author writes characters with such flair. The chemistry between William and Nell practically ignites the pages. The mystery itself is handled well with excellent pacing, and I was surprised at the depth of darkness within William, which only makes him more fascinating. I can't wait to read the next in the series.
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64 of 72 people found the following review helpful By JS on October 1, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
P.B. Ryan has done quite a lot of research and many of the descriptions of Civil War era Boston ring true. But Nell Sweeney, the main character, is supposed to be a reformed thief who spent 4 years as assistant/mistress to a doctor. How in just 4 years, while working for him, did she also manage to learn Latin and French, anatomy and very modern ideas about preserving evidence? I like the other characters in the book, and also in the second in the series. Their motivations and actions connect with their characters as well described. But Nell continues in the second book to be just a bit too modern and too insightful, even though the author allows her to jump to conclusions and be mistaken once in a while. I hate to suggest that an author 'dumb down' a female character, but at least be sure about the historic accuracy of important aspects of the plot, such as having cops look at blood splatters and such. That seems too scientific for 1860s policing.
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