I spent the last six days devouring P.B. Ryan’s Nell Sweeney mysteries. I don’t go on mystery binges very often, but I couldn’t put these down! Ryan’s historical mysteries are set in post-civil war America, so they hit all sorts of my favorite buttons. The books are not gruesome, but not too delicate either. The story and characters suck you in–and you won’t be able to get enough of them! (Evidence: I read all six books in the same number of days.)
The series kicks off with Still Life with Murder, when heroine Nell Sweeney assists in the birth of a maid’s daughter at a wealthy Boston home. The unorthodox matron of the house adopts the illegitimate daughter of her maid on the spot, and decides to keep Nell on as nurse/governess. Nell is not exactly a fitting candidate, but her and Viola get along from the get-go. The former cutpurse–turned physicians assistant–turned respectable governess–falls in love with her young charge Gracie. Serving as not only Gracie’s governess but also as companion to Viola Hewitt, who is confined to a wheelchair, but full of vigor in every other capacity. With the assistance of the estranged eldest Hewitt son, thought dead after the war, Nell investigates a variety of tough cases that keep you guessing with numerous twists. In addition to unpredictable endings, the books are full of historical references, social class issues, romance, and humor. Who could say no?