Still Life With Murder (Nell Sweeney Mystery Series, #1)
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Still Life With Murder (Nell Sweeney Historical Mysteries #1)

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  2,786 ratings  ·  404 reviews
Book #1 of P.B. Ryan’s bestselling historical mystery series featuring Boston governess Nell Sweeney and opium-smoking former battle surgeon Will Hewitt. Long thought to have died during the Civil War, Will is arrested for murder, and it's up to Nell to prove his innocence.
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published July 5th 2010 by Hawkley Books (first published July 1st 2003)
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A measure of how good a mystery story is, is how much you enjoyed it even if you figured out most of what was going on.

A measure of how good a Kindle free download is, is if you are willing to purchase further titles in the series at regular price.

This book passes both tests: I figured out a lot of the final denouement (though not all) but didn't feel cheated at the end. I downloaded it free, and will purchase other titles in the series.

I enjoyed the main characters; no perfectly pretty girls o...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Book Slut -K
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...more
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...more
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....more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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.
The first book in the Nell Sweeney historical mystery series turned out to be really good! I know I'm giving it a B (or solid), but that's only because well... it's the first of a series and I don't usually give first books higher grades unless they are fantabulous. Nell is an Irish governess working for a wealthy Bostonian family. The time is just after the American Civil War has ended and the mystery? Nell's employers, Augustus and Viola Hewitt are shocked and appalled when they are informed t...more
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...more
Set in post Civil War era Boston, this book introduces us to Nell Sweeney, a young Irish woman who, through a series of fortunate circumstances becomes the governess for a rich, Boston Brahmin family.

As the book goes on we learn that Nell has a past she is struggling to overcome and she has done an admirable job. So much so that even though she knows her origins are very low, her current deportment, manner and speech cause others to mistake her for a 'Lace Curtain' Irish. She becomes attached to...more
Jan 26, 2014 Betty rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historical romance, mystery
Shelves: e-books
The tale occurs post civil war. The history information is fabulous and detailed.Meet Nell Sweeney,an Irish lass who has managed to become a governess for the daughter of a wealthy Boston family. The Huewitts have 4 sons; two died at Andersville prison. All are surprise to learn that Will Huewitt survived and is accused of murder. Nell helps to clear his name.
Mark Chisnell
I've been trying to read a lot more widely recently and I picked up this one because of it's great reviews on It's an unusual murder mystery, partly because the detective is female - although that's not such a big deal these days - but it's combined with a period setting in post-Civil War Boston. I've spent a little time in that city and it's a great place, and I'd love to return having read Still Life.

I thought this was a great read, kept me guessing till the end with a fine centra...more
This is an excellent historical mystery set in Boston, MA after the civil war. The main character is Nell Sweeney who is a governess for a wealthy family in Boston. Her story is interesting and the murder mystery takes many twists and turns. I was surprised at the ending, though it did feel slightly rushed. Excellent story, great writing, and interesting characters. We are introduced to Will Hewitt, the black sheep son of her employer who is accused of murder. He is former surgeon and current op...more
This mystery book drew me in and kept me reading from the start and not wanting it to end. Here’s a few aspects of what I loved:
Characters. Nell Sweeney is the type of heroine I love. Strong woman, yet human. She’s a survivor, having grown up in poverty and losing most of her family. She’s got a strong moral compass and a keen intellect that guides her. Will Hewett/Duchette is complex, flawed character with a sharp wit and complex moral sense. The supporting characters are all richly drawn as w...more
This is the first in a series and the author does a pretty good job of laying the ground work for the books to follow. Nell Sweeney moves from the slums into the middle class when she meets an older doctor who needs companionship as much as assistance. The doctor happens to take her on a house call that happens to be at the home of a very established and wealthy family when her life changes again. The matriarch of the family requires her services as a "governess" but as you will see, she does ve...more
A mystery set in Boston during the Gilded Age. The book is nicely plotted. I had my suspicions, but I was never quite sure "who done it" until it was revealed at the end.

Ryan provides some nice details filling out life in that era. I found myself liking and caring about her heroine, Nell Sweeney -- and wanting to know what adventures she might go on in the next book.

Got this as a freebie on my Kindle and found it to be a very enjoyable mystery. I will get her others and continue with Nell's stories.

Nell becomes a governess for a wealthy family in Victorian Boston. One of the sons is accused of murder and all the evidence is damning, but Nell has doubts and is trying to find the real murderer.
Still Life with Murder takes place in Boston after the Civil War. Nan Sweeney has worked herself up from poverty to being a doctor's assistant. She catches the eye of Viola Hewitt while attending an emergency birth of a baby girl. She is offered the position of governess for one of the wealthiest Boston families. Nan is soon trying to find out who murdered a man at Flynn's Boarding House as a Hewitt family member is arrested and accused of the murder.

There were some very memorable scenes in the...more
Cathy Cole
When I began to read Still Life with Murder, I expected to find a pleasant little story set during a period of history in which I've always been interested. Did I ever underestimate this book! Ryan's setting is wonderfully evocative and made me feel as though I were walking the streets of Boston during the Civil War. I deduced the identity of the killer early on, but that in no way spoiled this book for me-- there's simply so much to savor that this small detail quickly became irrelevant.

What ma...more
Sheila Siler
I loved this book! I am a big Anne Perry fan and I found this to be just as intriguing and edgy without being vulgar, just like Anne Perry. Nell is a great heroine and the revealing of her life in little glimpses is so very well done. I can't wait to read the next one and learn more about her and see how her life develops!
Arielle Gordon
This was a terrific read! I pretty much didn't want to put it down, and the story line didn't drag a single minute.

Nell is a highly intelligent governess with a hidden and possibly dubious past she hopes to keep secret, but she's willing to risk it all to save the son of her employer, even though he's unwilling to aid in his own defense. Thought to be dead, he turns up after an arrest, under an assumed name; an addict due to wounds suffered in the war, both physical and mental. This combination...more
I don't normally read mysteries or historical fiction, so I might be a poor judge of what makes a good book in this genre. Good (free kindle) bedtime reading with interesting but not too far-reaching characters. I'll be buying the next in the series.
Seem kind of fluffy, but I am enjoying the descriptions of Gilded Age Boston. I was amused by the references to the Charles St. Jail, and thinking "Great place to get a Martini!" Glad I like it, since I bought all 6 in the series! (Yay $2.99 Nookbooks!)
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