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This is an alternate cover edition for B003UV98MM Boston, 1868: The dawn of the Gilded Age, an era of burgeoning commerce and invention, of unimaginable new fortunes and lavish excess—for some. Born into dismal poverty, young Nell Sweeney scratches by on her wits and little else until fortune blesses her with a position as nursery governess to the fabulously wealthy Hewitt This is an alternate cover edition for B003UV98MM Boston, 1868: The dawn of the Gilded Age, an era of burgeoning commerce and invention, of unimaginable new fortunes and lavish excess—for some. Born into dismal poverty, young Nell Sweeney scratches by on her wits and little else until fortune blesses her with a position as nursery governess to the fabulously wealthy Hewitts. But she soon learns that ugly secrets lurk beneath the surface of their gold-plated world. The Hewitts’ eldest son, William, a former Union Army battle surgeon and the black sheep of the family, was reported to have died three years before in a notorious Confederate prison camp. But one snowy February afternoon, his parents learn that he is, in fact, still alive—and in jail for having murdered a man while intoxicated on opium. Infuriated by his son’s deception and convinced of his guilt, August Hewitt forbids his wife from coming to Will’s aid, so she begs Nell to help exonerate him. Nell finds that she must delve into the kind of dark and treacherous underworld she thought she’d left far behind if she is to unearth the truth before the hangman’s noose tightens around William Hewitt’s throat.


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This is an alternate cover edition for B003UV98MM Boston, 1868: The dawn of the Gilded Age, an era of burgeoning commerce and invention, of unimaginable new fortunes and lavish excess—for some. Born into dismal poverty, young Nell Sweeney scratches by on her wits and little else until fortune blesses her with a position as nursery governess to the fabulously wealthy Hewitt This is an alternate cover edition for B003UV98MM Boston, 1868: The dawn of the Gilded Age, an era of burgeoning commerce and invention, of unimaginable new fortunes and lavish excess—for some. Born into dismal poverty, young Nell Sweeney scratches by on her wits and little else until fortune blesses her with a position as nursery governess to the fabulously wealthy Hewitts. But she soon learns that ugly secrets lurk beneath the surface of their gold-plated world. The Hewitts’ eldest son, William, a former Union Army battle surgeon and the black sheep of the family, was reported to have died three years before in a notorious Confederate prison camp. But one snowy February afternoon, his parents learn that he is, in fact, still alive—and in jail for having murdered a man while intoxicated on opium. Infuriated by his son’s deception and convinced of his guilt, August Hewitt forbids his wife from coming to Will’s aid, so she begs Nell to help exonerate him. Nell finds that she must delve into the kind of dark and treacherous underworld she thought she’d left far behind if she is to unearth the truth before the hangman’s noose tightens around William Hewitt’s throat.

30 review for Still Life with Murder

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    It was 1868 in Boston and Nell Sweeney had been apprenticed to Dr Greaves for the past four years. He had taught her a lot, for which she was grateful. The night they were called to assist in a birth was the turning point in Nell’s previously harsh existence. Viola Hewitt offered Nell a governess’ position in their home and Nell was thankful to accept. Viola was grief stricken at the loss of two of her sons in the Confederate war. William was her firstborn and though the black sheep of the family It was 1868 in Boston and Nell Sweeney had been apprenticed to Dr Greaves for the past four years. He had taught her a lot, for which she was grateful. The night they were called to assist in a birth was the turning point in Nell’s previously harsh existence. Viola Hewitt offered Nell a governess’ position in their home and Nell was thankful to accept. Viola was grief stricken at the loss of two of her sons in the Confederate war. William was her firstborn and though the black sheep of the family, Viola loved and missed him terribly. And Robbie had been idolised by all – the loss of the two young men was devastating. But it was when a friend of Viola’s husband arrived with news about William that lives changed once again. And suddenly Nell was embroiled in the appalling secrets of the past. What was she to do? Was it possibly for Nell to unearth the truth behind the backs of those who were determined to bring the ultimate sentence? Still Life With Murder by P.B. Ryan is an excellent historical mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s also the first in the Nell Sweeney Mysteries, so I’ll be reading more! Nell’s character is one I really liked; strong, determined and not frightened to speak her mind (to her detriment sometimes!) Highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ingie

    Review written June 3, 2016 4 1/2 Stars - A wonderful audiobook gem Still Life With Murder is the first book in the historical mystery serial, Nell Sweeney Mysteries with five books so far. I had hopes for a good series start. — They are all fully met. I listened to the $2 WSfV audiobook (incl a freebie kindle) — 9:45 hours very well narrated by Leigh Ryan. ********************************************** Boston 1868 « Young Irish immigrant Nell Sweeney is governess for the adopted daughter of we Review written June 3, 2016 4 1/2 Stars - A wonderful audiobook gem Still Life With Murder is the first book in the historical mystery serial, Nell Sweeney Mysteries with five books so far. I had hopes for a good series start. — They are all fully met. I listened to the $2 WSfV audiobook (incl a freebie kindle) — 9:45 hours very well narrated by Leigh Ryan. ********************************************** Boston 1868 « Young Irish immigrant Nell Sweeney is governess for the adopted daughter of wealthy Bostonians Viola and August Hewitt. Nell has become a favorite confidant of Viola. The pair had four grown sons, the eldest two thought to have died in Andersonville* during the Civil War. » I don't want to reveal too much about the plot. I liked to be surprised more than once and I honestly wasn't "sure" until the very end. Some of the stories in this story truly touched me and I felt both the grieving horror from their old memories and those sweet moments here and now. ...So, if you like a good thoughtout historical mystery, a whodunnit with a bit of flair, a tiny splash of light romance, a wise and courageous young curious heroine, as well as some social realism (the horrors of the civil war, the nasty prisoner camp, the problems with abuse of drugs and general living poverty 150 years ago) then you might like this book as much as me. Add a perfect narrator in Ms Ryan (the author?). Still Life With Murder gets a big loud applause from me. I am generous this beautiful early summer evening and rounds up to five brilliant stars. — I will absolutely continue this series. ********************************************** I LIKE - everything about this audiobook **** *) Learn more about Andersonville Prison Camp, Georgia during the American Civil War, where 13.000 (of 45.000) men died, here: click (Wikipedia) **) I often read romances but this is not a romance with a HEA or steamy love scenes. This book is a traditional "whodunnit" mystery with some light romantic elements.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jaya

    3.25 ⭐ would have been a solid four star had it not been for the seriously slow start (along with those with tedious descriptions of imbibing opium and its after effects). In hindsight I realise that the author was setting stage for the forthcoming sequels, which am definitely going to check out at the earliest.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ceki

    NOTE: This is definitely not cozy mystery and I've seen people shelf this series as such! Just a piece of warning because there is nothing cozy about this! It is a dark historical tale with mystery elements and zero romance (at least in the first book)! Some of the possible triggers are: opium addiction, prostitution, abuse, PTSD (after the American Civil War), depictions of horrors from Andersonville Prison, the corruption etc. With that being said, I still loved the story. I was immediately dra NOTE: This is definitely not cozy mystery and I've seen people shelf this series as such! Just a piece of warning because there is nothing cozy about this! It is a dark historical tale with mystery elements and zero romance (at least in the first book)! Some of the possible triggers are: opium addiction, prostitution, abuse, PTSD (after the American Civil War), depictions of horrors from Andersonville Prison, the corruption etc. With that being said, I still loved the story. I was immediately drawn in by the storytelling and characters. This is far from any historical romance and cozy mystery because it depicts the real horrors of the 19th century America and the consequences of the Civil War. And most importantly - nobody was able to escape it, both the rich and poor ended up as victims. Nell Sweeney is a poor governess with a tragic past who wants to lead a normal quiet life but ends up solving the mystery around her employers' son William Hewitts. It is obvious at the end that William will become a potential romantic candidate, but during the novel they are more like colleagues turning into friends. To be honest, I really loved William as a hero, because he managed to stay a good man even though he's been through shit and survived somehow. Nell was okay-ish, her martyr and always-good-and-forgiving attitude annoyed me hence one star minus in the rating. Both she and William reminded me of Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane from Silent in the Grave. William is the same Byronic hero with a tragic past and mysterious present - it is obvious that his story will be told in layers and he will pop out now and there to spice up the story. However, Still Life with Murder is much darker and the characters are more flawed aka realistic. It seems to me that P.B. Ryan is better at developing characters than Deanna Raybourn and I'm glad for that. 4/5 - great mystery, interesting and developed characters with enough historical background to keep it realistic and intense, recommended to the fans of dark historical mysteries.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Felicia

    I have a REAL soft spot for historical mystery series, especially with a good romance subplot (see Deanna Raybourn for my fave!) I picked up several #1s in some series, and this one was one of the most enjoyable of the batch. It's set in the post-Civil War US, which I thought was interesting and non-standard. It's a BIT perplexing in that there are some modern sensibilities that don't feel 100% organic to the time, but I overlooked it because there were some fun characters and settings. I really I have a REAL soft spot for historical mystery series, especially with a good romance subplot (see Deanna Raybourn for my fave!) I picked up several #1s in some series, and this one was one of the most enjoyable of the batch. It's set in the post-Civil War US, which I thought was interesting and non-standard. It's a BIT perplexing in that there are some modern sensibilities that don't feel 100% organic to the time, but I overlooked it because there were some fun characters and settings. I really liked the lead character Nell, I enjoyed the family conflict, and even though I was one step ahead of the mystery, the research of the period really drew me through the book. Quite enjoyed it, and will be reading the next one!

  6. 4 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    This was a really good book, well written and descriptive of a time I don't often read about, 1860s Boston. Nell is a girl with a past, who is hired to become governess to an adopted baby in a wealthy home. The only thing her employer knows about her is that she was employed as a nurse of sorts and has a good head on her shoulders. Three years later as Nell sets about to help her employer free a son of murder charges, Nell's past transgressions, now known only to Nell, are slowly revealed to the This was a really good book, well written and descriptive of a time I don't often read about, 1860s Boston. Nell is a girl with a past, who is hired to become governess to an adopted baby in a wealthy home. The only thing her employer knows about her is that she was employed as a nurse of sorts and has a good head on her shoulders. Three years later as Nell sets about to help her employer free a son of murder charges, Nell's past transgressions, now known only to Nell, are slowly revealed to the reader. Her past and personality make her just a delightful character, a surprise to us around every corner with many tricks up her sleeves. I look forward to reading more by this author.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Still Life with Murder 4 Stars Three years after the end of the Civil War, Nell Sweeney, a young woman born into poverty, finds her way into the home of the Hewitts, a wealthy Bostonian family. When William Hewitt, a former military surgeon and black sheep of the family, is accused of murder, his mother and Nell’s benefactor, begs the young governess to help her eldest child. To uncover the truth, Nell must delve deep into Boston’s dark and dangerous underbelly, but the greatest threat might just Still Life with Murder 4 Stars Three years after the end of the Civil War, Nell Sweeney, a young woman born into poverty, finds her way into the home of the Hewitts, a wealthy Bostonian family. When William Hewitt, a former military surgeon and black sheep of the family, is accused of murder, his mother and Nell’s benefactor, begs the young governess to help her eldest child. To uncover the truth, Nell must delve deep into Boston’s dark and dangerous underbelly, but the greatest threat might just come from the enigmatic William himself. Interesting historical setting, especially the details about Andersonville prison during the Civil War and in its aftermath. The heroine is also very appealing, but the mystery is on the predictable side. Nell is a spirited yet practical heroine and there are just enough hints about her murky past to make her particularly intriguing. William is similarly ambiguous. He has obviously been traumatized by his experiences during the war, but there is also something fundamentally dark and ominous about him. The mystery is pretty straightforward and it is possible to guess the identity of the culprit quite easily. Nevertheless, it is fun to follow along as Nell investigates, although she does get into some rather unrealistic situations that require a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief. Some of the other twists and turns to do with the various characters are also obvious, but compelling enough to continue with the series. All in all, a promising start to an interesting series.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Merry

    A typical murder mystery set in post-Civil War Boston, with the protagonist being a young woman, Nell Sweeney, with a less than respectable past who becomes a governess in a wealthy family. The book had all the right elements to be a great story, but totally fell down in my eyes. The author spent pages and pages describing the technical aspects of how a man smoked opium (I really didn't need all that detail!); the rich woman Nell worked for did things (getting drunk, blabbering her family secret A typical murder mystery set in post-Civil War Boston, with the protagonist being a young woman, Nell Sweeney, with a less than respectable past who becomes a governess in a wealthy family. The book had all the right elements to be a great story, but totally fell down in my eyes. The author spent pages and pages describing the technical aspects of how a man smoked opium (I really didn't need all that detail!); the rich woman Nell worked for did things (getting drunk, blabbering her family secrets to an employee...) that just seemed quite unlikely given the timeframe when the story is set; and Nell convinced an investigator to let her tag along as he interviewed witnesses -- all this in the 1860's when women were expected to be shielded from unsavory characters and to swoon if a bad word were uttered in their presence. I don't think so. I enjoyed the book more when I used my speed reading skills so I didn't get into all the details that just didn't mesh with the setting. I was disappointed in the writing, or perhaps it's the editing that was lacking. So much of the dialog was "He said, she said, then he said, then she said." I was shocked when I saw (just now) that the book has so many high ratings. So perhaps it's just me, but I don't think it deserves high marks at all.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Summer

    I love a good historical mystery with romantic elements. It's pretty high on my list of favorite genres to read. In Still Life With Murder it's setting is Boston, MA just after the end of the Civil War. Typically the American Civil War is not one of my favorite time periods to read about but I had read some good reviews of the series and wanted to give it a try. The mystery wasn't so much a traditional whodunit but the protagonist trying to get a man accused of murder away from the hangman's noo I love a good historical mystery with romantic elements. It's pretty high on my list of favorite genres to read. In Still Life With Murder it's setting is Boston, MA just after the end of the Civil War. Typically the American Civil War is not one of my favorite time periods to read about but I had read some good reviews of the series and wanted to give it a try. The mystery wasn't so much a traditional whodunit but the protagonist trying to get a man accused of murder away from the hangman's noose. The characters were layered and the time period and setting felt well researched and described. There is a building relationship by the end of the book between the two characters but it's only barely breaking the surface so expect a very slow burn to grow throughout the series. If historical mysteries with female protagonists are something you like or would like to try this is worth checking out.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    A murder mystery, but wrapped in a historical novel set in the Gilded Age in Boston circa 1868, this book is deliciously full of detail about the lives of both the incredibly wealthy Bostonians and the seamiest residents who move through the alleys and wharves of the rougher slum side of town. The protagonist is Nell Sweeney, a brainy young Irish girl who can move comfortably in both extremes of society. We are introduced to her as a 22 year old apprentice to a seasoned doctor in the Cape Cod ar A murder mystery, but wrapped in a historical novel set in the Gilded Age in Boston circa 1868, this book is deliciously full of detail about the lives of both the incredibly wealthy Bostonians and the seamiest residents who move through the alleys and wharves of the rougher slum side of town. The protagonist is Nell Sweeney, a brainy young Irish girl who can move comfortably in both extremes of society. We are introduced to her as a 22 year old apprentice to a seasoned doctor in the Cape Cod area. He has been called out, on the proverbial dark and stormy night, to the Hewitt "summer cottage," to attend the birth of the child of one of the Hewitt servants. Both Dr. Greaves and Nell find it odd that the family has remained in Cape Cod after the season is over, and secondly, that they attach enough significance to the birth of a servant's child to call a doctor out to attend the birth. Author P.B. Ryan drops clues from the beginning about Nell's origins in the lower class and her good fortune of coming under the tutelage of Dr. Greaves. Her nursing skills and her good manners lead Viola Hewitt to offer her the job of governess for the infant on the night of the birth. When the mother rejects her child, Viola decides to adopt the child and find the birth mother and her husband another place with another wealthy Boston family. Viola is a strong-willed woman, but she does have four grown sons as well as a physical infirmity that consigns her to a wheel chair most of the time, so a governess is required, not just by the standards of society, but by Viola's physical limitations. Another bond that Viola and Nell share is their artistic side. Viola has spent her leisure time painting portraits of her handsome young sons, whereas Nell has a great memory for details and often sketches in the evening what she has observed during daytime hours. The book title alludes to the artistic interests the two women share, as well as the apparently serene life they are living, when under the surface so much more is happening. After the birth of little Gracie, the story fast forwards three years and transitions from Cape Cod to the opulent Boston Commons mansion of the Hewitt family. We are introduced to the grief the family has experienced in the tragic loss of their two older sons in the recently ended War between the States. Abruptly one day early in 1868, the family receives startling news that the eldest of their sons, William, is alive, but arrested in jail and charged with murder. He has been arrested under an assumed name, but one of the officers recognizes him from his run-ins with the law as a free-wheeling younger man. Viola's formidable husband August is disgusted and inflamed that William, not the favored Robbie, has survived, but he masks that negative emotion with a profession that their son has done his mother a grievous harm by not coming home...allowing the family to presume him dead for years. August has no intention of helping William, believing he is getting only what he deserves. Viola is heartbroken but determined to help her son. She knows she can't overtly defy her husband so she makes Nell her agent to take a message to William. Nell is shocked to see William's condition...the police tried unsuccessfully to beat a confession out of him...but the most shocking part is the revelation that he is an opium addict and absolutely refuses help from his mother or from Nell. Nell turns out to be a match for the police detective whose job it is to gather the witnesses who will assure that William is hanged for the murder. She wangles her way into his company as he goes back to the site of the crime and is with him when he interviews the unsavory witnesses. Though detective Cook has insisted that she remain silent, she asks insightful questions, which he quickly realizes are quite helpful. Though on the surface it appears that William's guilt is obvious, Nell becomes more and more vested in ferreting out the truth, which it appears she must do with very little help from William. In the process of telling a compelling story, Ms. Ryan gives graphically revealing details of the Civil War prison camp where Robbie died and William received the injuries that ultimately led to his addiction. The reader also sees the depths of depravity involved with opium addiction with none of the exotic glamor that one might assume otherwise (from, say, Sherlock Holmes stories...). This is really a good read, and the good news is that it is the first of several mysteries featuring the bright and beguiling Ms. Sweeney. Check it out!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jane Stewart

    I was not entertained. I wanted it to be over. If you like murder mysteries with the feel of a jigsaw puzzle, then you might like this. I was not drawn to the characters or the events. Part of the time I was angry at the accused guy for not defending himself or saying anything to anyone that could help him. It’s like he wanted to hang for murder. There is a surprise at the end which should appeal to some. Viola is in a wheelchair. Her son is accused of murder. She asks Nell to take messages to her I was not entertained. I wanted it to be over. If you like murder mysteries with the feel of a jigsaw puzzle, then you might like this. I was not drawn to the characters or the events. Part of the time I was angry at the accused guy for not defending himself or saying anything to anyone that could help him. It’s like he wanted to hang for murder. There is a surprise at the end which should appeal to some. Viola is in a wheelchair. Her son is accused of murder. She asks Nell to take messages to her son and investigate the murder. I enjoyed the first part of the story where Nell meets Viola and becomes her employee. But after that, it turned into typical mystery conversations and eventual discovery of the truth. I was impatient and trying to read fast. Some of the subject matter was depressing. Two men were prisoners in Andersonville, Georgia, one of the worst prisons in history - no food, no water, guards killed prisoners for fun. The story takes place shortly after the civil war, but there are descriptions of things from Andersonville. This is the first book in the Nell Sweeney Mystery series. I preferred two other books by this author. “Pure and Simple” is mystery with romance. “Hale’s Point” is romance. DATA: Narrative mode: 3rd person. Kindle count length: 5,403 (324 pages). Swearing language: moderate, including religious swear words. Sexual content: none, other than mentioning prostitutes with men. Setting: 1864 and 1868 Massachusetts. Copyright: 2003. Genre: mystery.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Judy Iliff

    What a happy accident this was! Still Life With Murder (a Nell Sweeney mystery formerly Gilded Age Mystery) was a free download on Kindle. As of a couple of hours ago, I bought the other 5 in the series. The setting for this book is Boston and Cape Cod shortly after the Civil War. Nell Sweeney has been a doctor's assistant apprentice of sorts for a doctor on Cape Cod. When she goes with the doctor to the home of a summer resident, she makes such an impression on the wife, Viola Hewitt, that she's What a happy accident this was! Still Life With Murder (a Nell Sweeney mystery formerly Gilded Age Mystery) was a free download on Kindle. As of a couple of hours ago, I bought the other 5 in the series. The setting for this book is Boston and Cape Cod shortly after the Civil War. Nell Sweeney has been a doctor's assistant apprentice of sorts for a doctor on Cape Cod. When she goes with the doctor to the home of a summer resident, she makes such an impression on the wife, Viola Hewitt, that she's hired as the governess to Viola's newly adopted daughter. About three years after she goes to work for the Hewitts, they learn that their oldest son did not die at Andersonville as they had been left to believe. Unfortunately, he's been arrested for murder in Boston. Viola cannot believe her son would kill anyone especially since he's a doctor. August Hewitt, however, would just as soon this son hang. Because Viola had polio she cannot go to Dr. Will and talk to him. She can, however, send Nell to do her bidding - and she does. The biggest problem is Will will not confess to nor defend himself in the case. Part of his problem is he's addicted to opium. Again I have discovered an author who has developed a strong female character who doesn't do things simply because she's told to not do them. The setting is well described and easy to picture in all it's horror and beauty.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Barb in Maryland

    Very interesting murder mystery set in Boston, post-Civil War. The Hewitt family is one of Boston's most elite. But they are not immune to tragedy, as two of their 4 sons died in Andersonville Prison during the war. Or did they? A gruesome murder has been committed in an unsavory neighborhood and the main suspect (caught at the scene) is identified as Dr William Hewitt, the oldest of the Hewitt sons and long believed dead. Only now he's an opium addict, as well as a murder suspect. August Hewitt Very interesting murder mystery set in Boston, post-Civil War. The Hewitt family is one of Boston's most elite. But they are not immune to tragedy, as two of their 4 sons died in Andersonville Prison during the war. Or did they? A gruesome murder has been committed in an unsavory neighborhood and the main suspect (caught at the scene) is identified as Dr William Hewitt, the oldest of the Hewitt sons and long believed dead. Only now he's an opium addict, as well as a murder suspect. August Hewitt is lifting no finger to help his son, but Viola Hewitt would pull any strings she can to save Will. Viola's instrument is Nell Sweeney, nanny to Viola's adopted daughter Grace. Nell is reluctant, but also intelligent and not a sheltered miss. Over the course of the book many secrets are revealed (of course)as we get to know the Hewitt family, Nell and Will. Nell is an interesting young woman, Will is a bit more of an enigma. The main policeman involved, Detective Colin Cook, is well-developed. Some of the minor characters come across as 'types' rather than real people, but that's okay. The writing level is strong and clear, and my interest was held. And now to track down the next in the series

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This is a wonderful read. It starts off a bit slow, but quickly gains speed and at times I didn't want to put it down. The mystery aspect is well written, and I was pleased not to have been able to guess the outcome. The historical aspect was also well written, it takes into account the position of women in the time period while also allowing the heroine freedom to run around investigating a murder. The descriptions of Boston were fun too, reading about the town as it was post Civil War. And for This is a wonderful read. It starts off a bit slow, but quickly gains speed and at times I didn't want to put it down. The mystery aspect is well written, and I was pleased not to have been able to guess the outcome. The historical aspect was also well written, it takes into account the position of women in the time period while also allowing the heroine freedom to run around investigating a murder. The descriptions of Boston were fun too, reading about the town as it was post Civil War. And for the foodies out there, there is even a menu printed in the book. Clothes fiends will be pleased as well because we are kept informed as to what Nell is wearing. The characterization is also well done (at least with the major characters) and you really feel as though you understand the motivations and feelings of everyone involved. One downside is that pretty much everyone has a mysterious past. And we never find out the details of Nell's past, though I suppose that's what the rest of the series is for... I got this ebook free from Amazon, but I'll be back for more (even though I'll have to pay for it). See my full review at Examiner.com

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marla

    I had bookmarked this book when browsing Amazon, but I couldn't see paying $7.99, the price of a new paperback, for an ebook I didn't know anything about. Then it came up on the free book list recently and I snatched it up. I'm glad I did because I loved it, and I love that the next five books in the series are currently priced at $3.99, a more reasonable price for an ebook. I thought it was a well balance book, the author created Nell as a character with a background that made it very reasonable I had bookmarked this book when browsing Amazon, but I couldn't see paying $7.99, the price of a new paperback, for an ebook I didn't know anything about. Then it came up on the free book list recently and I snatched it up. I'm glad I did because I loved it, and I love that the next five books in the series are currently priced at $3.99, a more reasonable price for an ebook. I thought it was a well balance book, the author created Nell as a character with a background that made it very reasonable that she could fit in with the standards for the late 1800's, but still work outside of them as well to solve the mystery. I also liked that, while there is an attraction between the two main characters, it doesn't take up too much of the story, it's still a mystery story with a hint of romance rather than a romance story with some mystery, if that makes sense. =) I used a spoiler tag below, but it's more of a half spoiler than a full-on spoiler. =) (view spoiler)[I was suspicious of the same character as the Nell was, which turned out to be wrong, but I didn't mind, finding the reveal at the end to be satisfying and not contrived. (hide spoiler)] I also enjoyed using my dictionary function and looking up period words that I wasn't wholly familiar with.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pen-rye-n

    I went back and forth on reading this book. Set in the 1800's? Back when women were little more than accessories? Yeah. Pass. Give me a hardcore, ass-kicking heroine any day. I ended up ordering it after reading the reviews on Amazon & what do you know? Nell Sweeney, former "kinda" nurse, turned governess, is as kickass as any heroine in any other period. As far as the mystery goes, Ryan kept me guessing right up until the Big Reveal. Just when I would think I had it all figured out & was praising I went back and forth on reading this book. Set in the 1800's? Back when women were little more than accessories? Yeah. Pass. Give me a hardcore, ass-kicking heroine any day. I ended up ordering it after reading the reviews on Amazon & what do you know? Nell Sweeney, former "kinda" nurse, turned governess, is as kickass as any heroine in any other period. As far as the mystery goes, Ryan kept me guessing right up until the Big Reveal. Just when I would think I had it all figured out & was praising myself for cracking another mystery before the main character, Ryan would throw a curveball & I was back at square one. And as for Nell herself? I still haven't figured out her mystery. I fell in love with the characters I was supposed to, hurt for Viola Hewitt, the mother of suspected murderer Dr. Will Hewitt, wanted to cuddle little Gracie Hewitt, detested August, the resentful stepfather to Dr. Will & rooted for Nell throughout. Ryan, I'm a believer. Bring on the rest of the series.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Garlock

    Interesting premise. A bright and beautiful young woman named Nell Sweeney,with a past she'd prefer to forget, becomes an integral part of the wealthy Hewitt family in Boston shortly after the end of the American Civil War. The Hewitt's have secrets as dark as Nell's, secrets they would prefer to remain hidden, but of course that's not possible, not in any self-respecting mystery series. Nell is strong, resourceful, and smart in a time and place when women, especially Irish women, were viewed as Interesting premise. A bright and beautiful young woman named Nell Sweeney,with a past she'd prefer to forget, becomes an integral part of the wealthy Hewitt family in Boston shortly after the end of the American Civil War. The Hewitt's have secrets as dark as Nell's, secrets they would prefer to remain hidden, but of course that's not possible, not in any self-respecting mystery series. Nell is strong, resourceful, and smart in a time and place when women, especially Irish women, were viewed as decorative drudges. I enjoyed her voice: it was intelligent and funny. Her counterpart is Will Hewitt, a Civil War surgeon who has been left physically and emotionally damaged by his experiences in the hellhole that was Andersonville Prison. An opium addict, like many men injured during the war, Will has been accused of a brutal murder at a Boston opium den. Nell is drawn into the investigation at the request of Will's mother, Viola Hewitt, and must navigate the seamier side of Boston in order to determine if Will is really as guilty as he seems. Nell's is an enjoyable narrator: she's smart, funny and has a past she's reluctant to reveal--even to her readers. Will is witty and distant, a damaged enigma, who may or may not be a savage murderer. What's not to like? I'll tell you. I had a hard time buying Nell's entry into the Hewitt family. It seemed a bit out of sync for the time and the social status for the Hewitts as Boston Brahmins and Nell as the child of Irish immigrants. Also, Viola Hewitt's bonding and confidences with Nell seemed too good to be true. Especially for a transplanted Englishwoman. For me, Viola was one of the more unbelievable characters. Kind of a Mary Sue. Her husband, August Hewitt, was a stereotype, as were a few of the supporting characters. The big reveal about the murdered man was kind of obvious, but a bit of juggling at the end managed to keep the central mystery fresh. At least for me. Still and all, I enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Three and one-half stars rounded up to four because I really enjoyed spending time with Nell and Will.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I found this series on the Daily Kindle Deals and can never resist a historical mystery. I had no expectations and was pleasantly surprised how fantastic this book turned out to be. I loved the setting; Boston shortly after the Civil War. The author did a fabulous job of balancing the mystery, along with historical aspects. The relationship between Nell and William was filled with banter, but strong emotional moments as well. I look forward to that possible slow burn romance. I am already addict I found this series on the Daily Kindle Deals and can never resist a historical mystery. I had no expectations and was pleasantly surprised how fantastic this book turned out to be. I loved the setting; Boston shortly after the Civil War. The author did a fabulous job of balancing the mystery, along with historical aspects. The relationship between Nell and William was filled with banter, but strong emotional moments as well. I look forward to that possible slow burn romance. I am already addicted to Nell's story and plan to start book 2 ASAP.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    Still Life With Murder, the first book in a mystery series featuring 19th century Irish-American governess Nell Sweeney, starts off the series with a bang. Nell, a onetime workhouse denizen on Cape Cod, has plenty of pluck and intelligence. She serves in the Boston home of Viola Hewitt, an unconventional British-born matron who elevated Nell from physician's assistant to governess for an adopted daughter. For three years, Nell had delighted in caring for Grace Lindleigh Hewitt. With two grown so Still Life With Murder, the first book in a mystery series featuring 19th century Irish-American governess Nell Sweeney, starts off the series with a bang. Nell, a onetime workhouse denizen on Cape Cod, has plenty of pluck and intelligence. She serves in the Boston home of Viola Hewitt, an unconventional British-born matron who elevated Nell from physician's assistant to governess for an adopted daughter. For three years, Nell had delighted in caring for Grace Lindleigh Hewitt. With two grown sons killed at Andersonville, the pestilential Confederate prison camp, Mrs. Hewitt sees the toddler Gracie as the light of her life, and Nell loves both of them with all her heart. Suddenly, Mrs. Hewitt and Nell discover that one of the Hewitt sons thought dead is actually alive -- when he is arrested for the murder of a sailor in the courtyard of an opium and gambling den. Mr. Hewitt is determined to avoid a scandal at any cost -- even if the prodigal son, William Hewitt, now a hopeless opium addict, hangs. Mrs. Hewitt, crippled by polio, knows there's only one person she can trust to investigate and save her son from the gallows: Nell Sweeney. Still Life With Murder is a real page turner with lots of plot twists, and author P.B. Ryan will keep you guessing until the last few pages. Ryan also laces the novel with a plethora of researched historical details on medicine and the class social strata of the late 1860s -- although, as Ryan so ably builds the suspense, you might not notice how much you're learning. Within minutes of finishing Still Life With Murder, I was downloading the Kindle edition of the sequel, Murder in a Mill Town. What an auspicious beginning to a sequel! And, just to sweeten the already sweet reading experience, Kindle readers can download Still Life With Murder for free.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Toni Osborne

    Book 1, in the Nell Sweeney Historical Mysteries This is a murder mystery with an historical flavor to it is set in the post-Civil War era of the 1868, in the affluent society circles of Boston. This novel is wonderful combination of murder mystery, history and romance and one that transports us into the Gilded Age with accuracy and timely details. From the start I was captured by the main character of Nell Sweeney, a doctor’s apprentice turned high-society governess. Working for a wealthy family Book 1, in the Nell Sweeney Historical Mysteries This is a murder mystery with an historical flavor to it is set in the post-Civil War era of the 1868, in the affluent society circles of Boston. This novel is wonderful combination of murder mystery, history and romance and one that transports us into the Gilded Age with accuracy and timely details. From the start I was captured by the main character of Nell Sweeney, a doctor’s apprentice turned high-society governess. Working for a wealthy family Nell soon becomes entangled in family secrets and must find out the truth in order to clear Will, the eldest son, from a murder charge. Although the outcome is quite predictable, the twists and turns are compelling and the situations the heroine gets herself into certainly adds to the excitement. While Nell investigates clues we travel with her to brothels, opium den and gambling halls and we learn along the way more about the kind of men she has to deal with. This is the first installment so not all is revealed about the strength of her character. We are told just enough to pique our interest. The novel is full of details about the wealthy Bostonians’ life as well as the one of poor people living in the rougher parts of the city. The story also brings graphically details of the Civil War prison camp’s life and the treatment of its prisoners. This story is smooth in tone and pacing, it sparkles with chemistry and sharp dialogue and provides hours of entertainment.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shaunesay

    A great mystery story with interesting characters! I'm definitely interested in the rest of the series! A great mystery story with interesting characters! I'm definitely interested in the rest of the series!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Literary Chanteuse

    4.5 stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    This was really really good! I enjoyed several aspects about this story from the setting, Boston 1868 to the main character Nell who was written as a strong intelligent women with a good backstory. The mystery and the great writing kept me reading and guessing as the story slowly unraveled and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

  24. 4 out of 5

    May

    I had already read Book 2, and enjoyed it enough to go back to Book 1. I think P Ryan has done a wonderful job weaving these murder mysteries into the tapestry of Boston in the years immediately following the Civil War. The interaction of the Brahmins, their Irish employees and the general culture of that time and place makes for a great read. I look forward to Book 3!!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dorie

    I found a great new historical mystery series! I enjoyed this one a lot, and the characters are really well drawn and interesting. Nell Sweeney works as a governess for the Hewitt family taking care of their adopted baby daughter Gracie, who she loves as her own. The Hewitt’s find out their eldest son, believed to have died at Andersonville prison during the war, is alive, in Boston, and charged with murder. Viola Hewitt begs Nell to act as her agent and investigate the matter. Even though Will I found a great new historical mystery series! I enjoyed this one a lot, and the characters are really well drawn and interesting. Nell Sweeney works as a governess for the Hewitt family taking care of their adopted baby daughter Gracie, who she loves as her own. The Hewitt’s find out their eldest son, believed to have died at Andersonville prison during the war, is alive, in Boston, and charged with murder. Viola Hewitt begs Nell to act as her agent and investigate the matter. Even though Will was caught red-handed in the act of murder (literally), Nell begins having her doubts about his guilt. But then why is Will not protesting his innocence, and why does he seem so resigned to hang for the crime? The characters here are all imperfect. Nell has a secret past she keeps hidden. William is addicted to opium and unwilling to break the habit. Mrs. Hewitt is much like mothers everywhere – she has made mistakes in raising her children, but she loves them all dearly and would do anything to help them. Mr. Hewitt is particularly odious and comes off as hard and cold as a father, and repressive and patronizing as a husband. Nell didn’t instantly trust William and believe him to be a good man. She doubted his guilt, but only because of the lack of evidence. But due to the circumstantial evidence she also doubted his innocence. More than anyone else in the story she used clearheaded thinking and analytical skills in investigating the crime. I’m sure I will be going through the rest of the series fairly quickly.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    In a lot of ways, this is NOT my normal type of book. And, guys, I couldn't put it down. The writing depicting the flow of life in post-Civil War Boston is INCREDIBLE. Between the world Nell moves in now and the one she has to slip back into in the course of her investigation, I was completely caught up in it. Nell. She's smart and self-sufficient. She can handle pretty much anything she comes across. She's willing to make sacrifices to get answers. I liked her. I liked how she marched in even wh In a lot of ways, this is NOT my normal type of book. And, guys, I couldn't put it down. The writing depicting the flow of life in post-Civil War Boston is INCREDIBLE. Between the world Nell moves in now and the one she has to slip back into in the course of her investigation, I was completely caught up in it. Nell. She's smart and self-sufficient. She can handle pretty much anything she comes across. She's willing to make sacrifices to get answers. I liked her. I liked how she marched in even when those around her told her to stop searching for answers. I liked how she was unwilling to stop looking when she realized she was Will's only hope. And Will. He has some baggage. All of it dragging him down in ways no one but Nell can even remotely understand. As an aside, I honestly loathe drug usage in books and yet I could get behind why Will had fallen into opium. It made sense. He's a bad, bad place when we first meet him and I could see why he'd not only turn to the drug to escape it, but why he also had no intention of getting clean. As the first book in the series, we definitely get answers to who the characters are and what drives them. BUT... I also want more. Nell and Will have chemistry, but it's subtle and the romance looks to be of the slow-burn variety. At least I hope so. Maybe the 'shipper in me reads more into interactions than is really there. Regardless, Nell and Will team up in the next book and I'm holding out hope for them. -Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sharanya

    I didn't initially consider myself a Mystery fan. I just didn't think I had the patience for being almost completely in the dark about the outcome of an initial problem, and then there was the way one has to find the answer to that conflict - through searching a room, a house, a hallway, by talking to characters, reading between the lines of their stories etc. With that in mind I thought mysteries were slow reads - a whole lot of problem-solving and not enough direct action, or magic. Don't get I didn't initially consider myself a Mystery fan. I just didn't think I had the patience for being almost completely in the dark about the outcome of an initial problem, and then there was the way one has to find the answer to that conflict - through searching a room, a house, a hallway, by talking to characters, reading between the lines of their stories etc. With that in mind I thought mysteries were slow reads - a whole lot of problem-solving and not enough direct action, or magic. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was great if you were into that sort of thing, but I didn't think it was for me. Boy, was I wrong. I got this book because they were offering it for free on Kindle, and I thought, ok, sure, I'll power through a mystery. Power through, hah! I devoured this book in one night. The suspense was wonderful, the characters extremely well-developed, and then there was Nell and Will. Two damaged, strong protagonists who seized me by the heart and never let go. Their dialogue was enchanting, and their interaction fascinating. Coupled with this was a very well-researched setting in post-Civil War Boston, with the social machinations that came with that. Everything is so detailed and told in such a way that you really feel a part of that society. I am officially a Mystery convert. Truth.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Perhaps it's because I've been reading PNR after PNR lately, but this book really rubbed me the right way. The mystery was pretty good, but the historical detail was top-notch, the writing was superb, and I was totally 'shipping Nell and Will at the end. Were there moments where I needed to suspend disbelief? Sure. I can't imagine that a late-19th Century police officer would have taken a woman (even a lower-class governess) on the modern day equivalent of a ride-along to a flop-house/opium den. Perhaps it's because I've been reading PNR after PNR lately, but this book really rubbed me the right way. The mystery was pretty good, but the historical detail was top-notch, the writing was superb, and I was totally 'shipping Nell and Will at the end. Were there moments where I needed to suspend disbelief? Sure. I can't imagine that a late-19th Century police officer would have taken a woman (even a lower-class governess) on the modern day equivalent of a ride-along to a flop-house/opium den. Yet there was Nell, in the thick of it, with no other explanation than "I'm not easily shocked." But I loved Will's story. Ryan found the tarnished edges of the Guilded Age and brought them into the light. I highly recommend this story for lovers of history with a hint of romance and a pretty good mystery to boot.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura Lee

    Nell Sweeney is bent on furthering her status in life and does so by hardwork and circumstance. Boston 1868. Women have few choices in the working field. Nurse and governess or nanny are three of them. This is the first in a series. Nell gets involved in the rich family she works for. She is asked for her help in discovering a murderer and helping to solve a mystery. The story was good and the writing fast paced. The characters were likable. There was a little twist at the end. I enjoyed it very Nell Sweeney is bent on furthering her status in life and does so by hardwork and circumstance. Boston 1868. Women have few choices in the working field. Nurse and governess or nanny are three of them. This is the first in a series. Nell gets involved in the rich family she works for. She is asked for her help in discovering a murderer and helping to solve a mystery. The story was good and the writing fast paced. The characters were likable. There was a little twist at the end. I enjoyed it very much. Because it is an older series and I can go on and read the next few installments but I've promised myself to only buy one at a time! Looking forward to the next book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    3.5 stars. Excellent historical fiction. Plenty of historical and cultural details to carry the reader back to nineteenth century Boston, marred by slightly too modern dialogue and thought processes. Nell seems most real as a twenty-first century sleuth; less as a nineteenth century young lady. Nicely developed plot with enough false leads and misdirection to keep the reader engaged. A good read.

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