Berkley, July 2003, 6.50, 320 pp.
After their mother died from cholera and their father ran off with another woman, the three Sweeney children are sent to the Barnstable County Poor House where the youngest died from diphtheria. Nell fell in love with her brother's thieving friend Duncan, but he turned out to be an abusive person who hurt her so badly that she needed extensive medical care proved by Dr. Greaves. In time, she became his mistress and apprentice until the day they delivered the baby of a Hewitt servant.
Viola Hewitt adopts the child and hires Nell to be the baby's governess. Viola sweeps Nell into the world of the Boston Brahmin. After working there for four years, word arrives that the eldest son, thought to have died in a confederate prison camp, awaits trial for cold-blooded murder. Viola asks Nell to find evidence that will set her oldest son free since his father doesn't care if he hangs. Nell risks everything to clear Will because she believes he is innocent despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Post-Civil War Boston is an interesting place to be as the scars from the fighting though distant from the city still linger in unexpected places. Nell is a woman of mystery who hides secrets that she hasn't revealed which should be disclosed in future books. The heroine is a spunky woman who climbed out of a poverty-stricken and crime infested area to make something of herself. Readers will admire her and won't be able to resist her many charms. STILL LIFE WITH MURDER is a well-constructed and fascinating mystery in what looks to be a great series.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner