Rhys Bowen & Clare Broyles
March 22, 2024

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of two historical mystery series as well as several internationally bestselling historical novels, two of which were nominated for Edgar Award

Rhys was born in Bath, England and educated at London University but now divides her time between California and Arizona. Her books have been nominated for every major mystery award and she has won twenty of them to date, including five Agathas.

Clare Broyles

CLARE BROYLES, who is Rhys Bowen’s daughter, is a teacher and a musician. She began collaborating with her mother on the Molly Murphy mystery series with Wild Irish Rose and will continue the collaboration with All That is Hidden, out in March 2023. She has worked as a composer and arranger in the theater for both Arizona Theater Company and Childsplay and was nominated for an Arizone ‘Zoni’ theater award. Clare is married to a teacher and they have three children.

Interview by Elise Cooper

Q: How much are you involved in writing this story?

Rhys: Very involved. We talk through the story idea. Then Clare does some research, and we see what we want to incorporate. In the first couple of books, we wrote alternating chapters. Now Clare is writing more, but I am still going in and giving my suggestions. I am still very hands-on. Working with someone else is a gift because they have enthusiasm and new ideas.

Clare: If I do write a scene or a chapter, she reads it immediately for feedback, and vice-versa.


Q: How did you get the idea for this story?

Rhys: We realized we never focused on Sid and her Jewish heritage. We thought it might be interesting to have her family wanting to have her married off. With the typhoid epidemic, everyone wanted to get out of the city, but Jewish people were not welcome at the normal resorts. They decided to go up to the Catskills and stay in primitive cabins. We used typhoid to get Molly out of the city. Even some upscale houses became sick. This is why we brought in the cook, “typhoid Mary,” who went from household to household affecting the families.

Clare: We wanted to write everything going on at the Catskills. It had its beginning in 1903. Park Rangers were just coming into existence. Their chain of command had them reporting to NYPD, a perfect line to Daniel. They had the mining in trouble. There was also the growing environmental movement that started to clash with the big quarry there. Plus, there was a Bohemian community of professional women. Ontera was its name. We fictionalized it. We wanted to show that it was a place where women could be free.


Q: Your story is very relevant today considering what happened on October 7th and the antisemitism going on in the US today. Do you agree?

Rhys: It is very relevant now. It did not matter how respected someone was or how rich, it was hard for Jewish families to get out of NYC. They were still not welcome. The police detective in this story exhibited the underlying antisemitism that comes out all the time. My health club is in the Jewish Community Center and there must be a guard outside and now there is a sheriff’s car.

Clare: There were stories around that time that had to deal with the ‘No Hebrews allowed” signs at the upscale resorts. Unfortunately, this continues to be relevant throughout the years.


Q: There is a portrayal of the different levels of Judaism. Please explain.

Clare: Sid’s family was wealthy and less religious versus the religious immigrant strain.

Rhys: One of my oldest friends in New York picked up some tiny things we did to make it more accurate. She did loads of research for us.


Q: The Catskills?

Clare: It was based on fact. Some background, there were some wealthy Jewish philanthropists that wanted to help Jewish immigrants. This was about fifty years before. They bought large tracks of land in the Catskills to give to arriving families who instead of farming made money by renting out cabins.


Q: How would you describe Mira, Sid’s cousin?

Rhys: She is an interesting character. Not much of a fighter. Not strong-willed or independent. She is hopeful. She is very young who has been a sheltered Jewish girl. Sid and Gus gave her options in life.


Q: You also go into arranged marriages?

Rhys: Her role in life was to marry whoever her family chose for her and live happily ever after. We put in this quote from Sid, “This is how it is done in the old country. Parents chose a spouse, daughters obey, with a question of dowry and financial advantage. Love did not enter into it.” Gradually we see Mira gaining strength throughout the story. There were very few opportunities for women. Sid and Gus survived because they had money. Maybe this is easier than online dating now.

Clare: It is not just the Jewish community that does this. We first considered setting it in Boston with Gus’ family. Women at the time did not have much of a voice. Mira’s family did not force her into marriage but made that option the most attractive. I think Gus’s family in Boston would have done the same thing.


Q: How would you describe the victim, Levin, who was chosen to marry Mira?

Rhys: He is brash. He is someone who talks about how good they are at their job and how much money he makes. He is annoying and sleazy. He is not trustworthy but is clever enough to convince people he might be a good match.

Clare: He talks a good talk.


Q: What about your next books?

Rhys: The historical novel comes out in August titled The Rose Arbor. It takes place in 1968 with a little girl vanishing. The heroine is a journalist. Her roommate is a police officer. They go down to the South of England. Through their research, they find out that three little girls evacuated during WWII also disappeared. This book is a jigsaw puzzle tying all the cases.

Clare: The next Molly book has Bridie growing up, a fourteen-year-old. Ryan, a playwright, has written and acted in some motion pictures. Bridie is offered a part. It is titled, Silent as The Grave. It takes place in 1908. The very interesting part of the stories is the situations that lead to a murder. The way the people acted and felt in history.

Rhys: The special effects were all real. Someone tied to the train tracks was real, taking terrible risks. This all is presented in the book. It comes out the same time next year. All our books are linked to real time. We think about what happened then and how do we tie into it. I like to learn when I read. The sleuth character and how she handles things that stretch her makes the story interesting. When people write me fan mail, they never say that was a clever plot, but say “I love Molly,” which is what matters

Review by Elise Cooper

In Sunshine or In Shadow by Rhys Bowen and Clare Bowles the focus is on the good friend of Molly Murphy, Sid. As with all these books readers get a glimpse of what is happening in the time period that is weaved throughout the story.  This book is very relevant because it delves into the Catskills before it became a resort and how antisemitism flourished, just as today.

Because of the typhoid epidemic in the city, Molly and her children decide to stay with her mother-in-law in Westchester.  Molly, who’s bored, visits her friends, who are staying at an artists’ retreat near Sid’s relatives. Sid’s grandfather’s alleged ill health was just an excuse to get her to the Catskill farm, where a matchmaker has brought possible mates for both Sid and her cousin Mira. 

Mira’s match, Mr. Simon Levin, has made many enemies. Sid’s match is a college professor she finds interesting but has no intention of marrying. While out walking in the woods, Levin is shot with his own rifle, and the local police immediately focus on Mira, as a suspect. After her friends beg Molly to help Mira, she unearths other motives for his murder.

The reader is kept guessing as to who the murderer was almost to the very end, with clues strewn throughout. Where it really shines is in the descriptions of life during that time period, 1908, and all the historical information on the early Catskill resorts. A riveting murder, fun characters, interlaced with tidbits of historical information make this story a great read.

More Historical Mystery