Berkley, July 2004, 6.30, 272 pp.
As a child she lived in the poor house until she met Duncan who took her out of there. Neither Duncan nor Nell Sweeney had enough money to live on his salary so she started picking pockets and became known as Cornelia Catpurse because she was so good at it. After Duncan was found guilty of theft and thrown in jail for thirty years wealthy Bostonian Viola Hewitt hired her to be a governess for her adopted daughter Gracie.
Viola asks Nell to find out where Bridget Fallon and her boyfriend Virgil are and because she loves her benefactor Nell agrees. Viola's son, Will, an opium and morphine addict who makes his living as a gambler helps Nell. When they find Bridget and Virgil, the pair has been dead for a few days, the victim of murder with the evidence pointing to Will's brother Harry. While trying to clear Harry, Will and Nell become captives of the perpetrator.
Nell is one of the strongest, most honorable and dearest heroines to grace the pages of an amateur sleuth novel. She doesn't let anyone stop her from doing what she believes is right even if it means putting herself in danger. She plays many roles and can fit in as the mistress of a mansion or a pick pocket, which makes it easy for all types of people to confide in her. The mystery is well constructed and the revelation of the killer will come as a shock to readers. P.B. Ryan knows how to write a tale that will grip and keep readers interest throughout the novel.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner