The Ghost of Christmas Past (Molly Murphy)
by Rhys Bowen
Cover Artist: Design: Rowan Davis
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250125729
Date: 14 November 2017 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Molly Murphy, wife, mother, and sometimes detective, suffers from the loss of a unborn child in the aftermath of her experiences during the San Francisco earthquake. When her family is invited to spend Christmas with friends of her mother-in-law, she finds herself pulled into a tragedy that happened ten years ago.
The Van Aikens warmly welcome Molly and her family, however, the wife seems withdrawn. Van Aiken is proud of his ancestry, but most of the money comes from his father-in-law. An affable host, he arranges various activities to celebrate the holidays. Among the guests, besides Molly and her family with Birdie, her ward, are her mother-in-law and her companion Ivy, an aunt of the hostess, and the rich father of the hostess.
Molly can never resist a mystery, so when she learns the Van Aikens' child disappeared ten years ago, she wants to know what happened to the child. Van Aiken is reluctant to discuss the tragedy and brushes aside any questions. Unfortunately, the Van Aiken family is used to people disappearing. Winnie's older sister was disgraced and ran away with a lover. Nothing more has been heard from her.
Meanwhile, Molly and her husband continue their inquiries into the child's disappearance and that of a missing friend of Mr. Van Aiken. Eventually, they learn the friend is dead, but what happened to the missing child is not clear.
The Christmas celebrations continue unaffected by the melancholy history. Suddenly a young girl knocks at the door and claims to be Charlotte, the name of the missing child. Mr. Van Aiken is uncertain the girl is Charlotte, but his wife Winnie immediately takes to the child. Molly thinks the girl resembles Winnie. Molly is concerned for Winnie and the child because she considers Van Aiken somewhat of a tyrant. More tragedy is in store for the family.
As always, Rhys Bowen provides an interesting read with enough twists to satisfy readers. Her focus on family relationships and Molly's friends offer many insights. This is the 17th Molly Brown Mysteries. Bowen also writes the Constable Evans Mysteries and the Royal Spyness humorous mysteries.