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Still Life with Murder

(Nell Sweeney Mysteries #1)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  7,855 ratings  ·  829 reviews
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
Kindle Edition, 324 pages
Published July 5th 2010 by Hawkley Books (first published July 1st 2003)
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3.87  · 
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 ·  7,855 ratings  ·  829 reviews

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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
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.

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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 weal
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.
Jan 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nook, read-in-2015
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 ...more
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of dark historical mysteries
Shelves: historical, mystery
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
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
Jul 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 3-star
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
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 ...more
Jane Stewart
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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
Judy Iliff
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-library
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
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
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
Kathleen Garlock
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Ivonne Rovira
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Toni Osborne
Mar 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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
siobhan Quinlan
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5 cups of tea I dont normally read historical mystery and to be honest i picked this up to fill a word for a challnege and i am so glad i did! I found a new series to fall in love with. This was a fast and fun read.
We meet Nell, a young woman who was born at a hard time. She gets offered a job working as a governess for the Hewitts and feels like her luck has changed. But everything is not as it seems and Nell needs to help the Hewitts son and discover if he is ruly guilty of what he is accused
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-freebies
A great mystery story with interesting characters! I'm definitely interested in the rest of the series!
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.
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
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!!
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
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
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, historical
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
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.
Laura Lee
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
DNF... Just not for me! This didn't do it for me at's more about a man suffering opium addiction ! I got half way through it, blaaaaaaaaa ......... to many details!
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For Those who Like Historical Mysteries 1 8 Feb 03, 2017 08:24AM  
2017 Reading Chal...: Still Life With Murder 2 25 Jan 24, 2015 08:43AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: "Still Life with Murder" by P.B. Ryan 1 4 Jul 07, 2012 06:29PM  

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Pseudonym used by Patricia Ryan.

Other books in the series

Nell Sweeney Mysteries (6 books)
  • Murder in a Mill Town (Nell Sweeney Mysteries, #2)
  • Death on Beacon Hill (Nell Sweeney Mysteries, #3)
  • Murder on Black Friday (Nell Sweeney Mysteries, #4)
  • Murder In the North End (Nell Sweeney Mysteries, #5)
  • A Bucket of Ashes (Nell Sweeney Mysteries, #6)
“Most people follow the path wherever it leads them. Others hack their own way through the brush and always seem to end up on higher ground.” 5 likes
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