Molly Murphy is trying to get her career as an investigator off the ground in a world that thinks women should stick to needlepoint.
For the Love of Mike opens with Molly spending the night in jail. She is standing on a street, monitoring a house for one of her investigator cases, when some man mistakes her for a prostitute and hauls her in. Of course, who shows up in the morning but her favorite hot cop Captain Sullivan, who gives her a stern (and sexist) lecture before sending her on her way back home, where she is staying with her friends Sid and Gus.
Note: The previous book, Death of Riley, referred to Sid and Gus as Elena Miriam Hepsibah and Augusta Mary Walcott respectively. From this book forward, Sid’s last name has been changed to Goldfarb.
Molly is hard at work with her new investigator business, and decides to focus her energy on helping people in Europe locate relatives who have come to the United States. Her first job in this venture is to locate a young woman, Katherine, who ran away to marry an Irish freedom fighter named Michael Kelly. She is also hired by a local garment manufacturer (a sweatshop, really) to figure out who has been stealing new designs and giving them to a rival company.
These books tend to weave the stories in with real historical events, and here we see some discussion of workers’ rights — there is even a fire in one of the factories that is a clear reference to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy, though that happened nearly a decade after this book is set. We see protests and strikes over deplorable conditions, disgusting foremen, and absurd policies (like taking ten cents off your pay for using the mirror).
There’s also romantic intrigue! I’m not talking so much about Daniel though. Molly meets a young man named Jacob Singer, a photographer who is also involved with unions and workers’ rights. He’s Russian and Jewish, which means some are not fans of their relationship, but they like each other, and neither of them cares about the different backgrounds. Molly can’t completely get Daniel out of her mind though, for whatever reason, even though Jacob is supportive of her friendships and business ventures where Daniel comes off as a sexist d-bag who talks down to her and tries to get her to stay home. Plus he doesn’t have the cogliones (is there an Irish word for balls?) to break up with his fiancée because it might hurt his career.
Of course Molly solves her crimes, which conveniently overlap, both involving the same garment sweatshop. She still occasionally makes some daft decisions, but ultimately her cunning and instincts help her finish her jobs.