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.
©2003 Patricia Burford Ryan (P)2014 Patricia Burford Ryan
"A beautiful combination of entertaining characters, minute historical research, and a powerful evocation of time and place. I'm very glad there will be more to come." (New York Times best-selling author, Barbara Hambly)
"P.B. Ryan makes a stunning debut with Still Life With Murder...I can't wait for the next installment." (Best-selling author, Victoria Thompson)
"If you like fast-moving, accurately drawn, historical mysteries, you won't go wrong by trying Still Life With Murder." (Reviewing the Evidence)
Thrilling, compelling page-turner!
The combination of terrific writing, a well-crafted plot, and exquisite narration added up to a delightful listening/reading experience. I didn't want it to end.
My favorite was Nell Sweeney, the sleuth. I'd never experienced Leigh Ryan's narration before, but now I'm going to look for her name! Her voice quality is lovely and easy to listen to, she reads with feeling, she handles accents well, and she manages to differentiate between different speakers smoothly and clearly. Unlike some female narrators who rough up their voices to do male characters, Ms. Ryan was able to indicate a male voice in a much more listenable (and nondistracting!) way. Altogether, a great choice of narrator for this book.
I wish I could! I listen in the car during my commute, but this book and narrator were so good, I continued to listen after I got home. I almost never do that.
Only that I'm eager to listen to the rest of the series!
Still Life with Murder is the first book of an amazing mystery series which follows governess, Nell Sweeney, as she goes through 1860s Boston, looking to uncover the truth about a grisly murder that is tied to the upper-class family she works for. I was thrilled to see that it was now an audiobook, and I had so much fun listening to this story again.
Leigh Ryan captured Nell's voice magnificently, and her impressive stock of characters and dialects wove seamlessly into the story. Really lovely voice, I can't wait to see how she handles the rest of the series.
If you like a rich historical mystery with unexpected twists, Still Life with Murder is a wonderful read, and an exciting listen!
I read this book in print when it was first released, and was excited to listen to the audio book now that it's finally available. The story is great and the characters quite likable, but the narration by newcomer Leigh Ryan is fantastic. I enjoyed her use of different voices for the characters - sometimes that can be annoying, but in this book it works well! The book grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let up until it's over. I can't wait for the remaining books in this six-book series to be released!
I already have! Listened to the book in the car, and it was a wonderful story.
I really loved the setting. The world of gilded age Boston was so clear and fascinating. Great characters, compelling story.
I haven't, but I'm looking forward to listening to the next book in the series. She's got a lovely voice, very easy to listen to.
I like risky reads and thrilling conclusions
I loved Nell, and how Leigh Ryan voiced her. What a strong, fun protagonist to have in a historical mystery. You really get on her side immediately, and stay with her for the whole ride.
Absolutely! I usually try and figure out a mystery as it goes, but I was genuinely surprised! Will struck a chord with me, and he balanced out Nell's personality perfectly. What a pair!
Hands down, Nell! But she voiced many great characters including a little girl, an irish police officer, and a brooding english drug addict.
What an excellent listen, with an ending that got my heart racing. Looking forward to the next in the series!
P.B. Ryan's exciting first installment in the Nell Sweeney mystery series is a stunning adventure through 1860s Boston. I was immediately drawn to the protagonist, who, using her cleverness and charm, moves easily from the upper crust brahmin society, to the boardinghouses and opium dens that serve as exquissite backdrops to this fascinating mystery.
This mystery truly comes to life through Leigh Ryan's wonderful narration. Leigh gives the large and diverse cast of characters an honest voice as the story unfolds. Her ability to capture both written text and subtext gives the story new depth.
It is easy for me to highly recommend this audio book. We are fans of P.B. Ryan's entire Nell Sweeney series, and are eagerly awaiting the release of the second audio installment, Murder in a Mill Town.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
Nell Sweeney, after assisting Dr. Greaves with a very difficult birth, meets Viola Hewitt . . . her servant, Annie has just given birth to a beautiful baby girl, and rejected the baby . . . Viola Hewitt is determined to adopt the baby . . . and hire Nell as the child's governess . . . thus begins a life that Nell had never dreamed possible . . . raising little Grace . . . living with the Hewitts . . . adapting seamlessly into a new way of life . . . both Viola and Nell are artists . . . Nell sketching from memory people and places . . . and Viola a painter, only displaying her work in the inner sanctums of her home . . . and both women, brave, not easily shocked, yet harboring a past full of secrets . . . four years pass in relative peace and tranquility . . . until a man is arrested for murder . . . a man, thought long dead . . . Viola and August Hewitt's oldest son, William, a Union army surgeon . . . August rejects their son, casting him off to die for the murder . . . while Viola secretly enlists Nell to try and discover the truth and save him . . . setting into motion the unraveling of decades of deceit . . . in her search to discover what really happened to the man found with his throat cut with Will's surgical instrument outside the opium den, Nell found herself reliving her own past, treading dangerously close to the kind of places and people she'd thought long to have forgotten . . . while I found the descriptions of opium use and all other means of killing pain following the Civil War to be stomach turning, I also learned a lot about these men who came back maimed and changed for life . . . and the "industry" that preyed on them when they came back home . . . doctors returned addicted, these "medications" were not regulated . . . and the rich (although they hid behind their big homes, their fancy clothes, whist bailing out their spoiled rotten kids) fueled the drug trade . . . and many do the same today . . . the story was captivating, with twists and turns . . . and I was quite satisfied with the outcome . . . looking forward to the next in the series . . .
The charming 19th century feel and the path the mystery takes as it unfolds. If you like to hear about the seedy underbelly of the cobblestone streets of Boston, you will dig this book!
The last 2 hours of the book are most enjoyable and yes I couldn't stop listening. (Trying to not give anything away)
Her style of narration with numerous dialects and voices to cover through out the book. Not sure what the other lower starred reviews were thinking... but I'd say this is already one of my favorite audio books to date!
I have to admit that I am a sucker for a good murder mystery, but if you feel that same definitely check this book! With any review (especially a mystery) it's hard to write a review without giving away the best parts. If I were to pick out a specific part, it would be as Nell works to finally unravel the mystery and any of the sections at Fin's!
MORE PLEASE! Oh wait... there is on to "Murder in a Mill Town".
Love books! Classics and lighter fiction, mysteries (not too violent please :-). And selective non-fiction--whatever takes my fancy.
P B Ryan has written this mystery series set in the 1860's wealthy area of Boston. Ryan parallels Nell's own entrance into the book with her assistance to Dr. Greaves who is managing a particularly difficult delivery. Afterwards, it turns out that the maid who gave birth doesn't want to keep the baby, so it is wealthy Viola Hewitt, wheelchair-bound, grieving the loss of two sons in the Civil War, who decides to adopt the infant. She hires Nell to be governess, and so the connections between Nell Sweeney and the Boston Brahmin Hewitts begin.
Very quickly into the story, there is a murder, and reason to think that William Hewitt, one of the sons long thought dead, is the killer. Viola is desperate to find out if it is her lost son, so secretly sends Nell to the jail to find out. This will eventually lead the curious Irish immigrant girl back into places she thinks she has gotten away from, as she cannot resist investigating the murder on her own.
This is a book I read previously, and enjoyed comparing the written version with the narrated one. In the beginning, I was not too fond of Leigh Ryan's reading of some of it. But as the book moves along, I think her narration gets much better. I find her voice a bit soft and gentle for parts of it, but she did very well with the Irish accents, and Nell herself. This is an interesting book, which is why I wanted to re-read (hear) it. I like the author's skill with dialogue, with creating good characters, maintaining a good flow and fascinating details, and just the right amount of tension. I think this is an excellent beginning to the series. Recommend!
I absolutely loved this audiobook!! The narrator was phenomenal! Great story with well-fleshed out characters, each with their own agonized past, playing out in 19th century Boston depicted in vivid detail. The story was character-driven, which I love, and held me enthralled. It was all tied together nicely in the end with lots of room for sequels, which I can't wait to listen to. I really hope they make a movie out of this series!!! I'd just love to see Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC's Sherlock in case you're wondering) as the tortured William Hewitt.
"A Pleasant New Read"
I found this interesting and intriguing and an unusual tale. A story of Boston manners, trauma and murder after the American Civil War! Sensitively and sensibly written, yet engrossing.
There's mystery surrounding every character, so it's difficult to outline the plot beyond that which is already given!
Listen to it, it's well narrated and with none of the typical English fading, foolish or Flapper women to roll your eyes at!
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