Rhys Bowen is the pseudonym used by Janet Quin-Harkin, an 81-year-old British author who has been writing since the late 1970s, having released her first book, a children’s book, called Peter Penny’s Dance.
Janet Quin-Harkin was born in Bath, England, and was first educated in London, before moving to Germany and attending the University of Kiel and the University of Freiburg respectively for graduate studies.
Harkin has a background in dramatic arts, having worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as a studio manager within the drama department. She then went on to teach drama and dance before moving to Australia, working for Australian Broadcasting in Sydney. Since then, she has been living between California and Arizona and between 1988 and 1995, she worked as a writing teacher in San Rafael.
Harkin began writing books in the late 1970s, having published her first book, a children’s book called Peter Penny’s Dance in 1976. She juggled her career with her writing for many years, before committing to her writing full-time in the 1990s. Over the course of her writing career, she has published over 40 books and is most famous for two historical mystery series Constable Evans and Molly Murphy.
She has written many books under her real name, some in collaboration with other writers, and some under the Rhys Bowen pseudonym. While the two aforementioned series are her best-known works, she has written 4 series in total, which include short story add-ons, and numerous standalone books.
Under her real name Janet Quin-Harken, she wrote a plethora of children’s and YA books. Her decision to change her publication name was a result of her desire to shift genre and tone and she was cautious not to let her reputation as a light-hearted novelist interfere with her future, grittier novels.
While she has written a wide variety of books under numerous names and co-written a plethora of works with other writers, this article will specifically focus on the books written under the pseudonym Rhys Bowen.
This list will provide a complete guide to Rhys Bowen’s novels and will give brief descriptions of all books included in her best-selling series Constable Evan Evans and Molly Murphy.
Constable Evan Evans Series
Constable Evan Evans decided to swap bustling, busy city life with the idyllic setting of Llanfair, a quiet Welsh village in the midst of the Snowdonia mountain range. The landscape for this series was inspired by her time in the Welsh countryside during her childhood, so the vivid descriptions bring an emotive depth to the novel’s tone.
As the only constable in Llanfair, all law enforcement duties fall to him, which is normally no issue. But he quickly learns that Llanfair has a sinister history and contains some pretty odd and mysterious characters.
She published a new book in this series annually, making it easy to follow the chronological order. But to make it even easier for you, below is the order in which you should read the Constable Evans series.
Evans Above (1997)
Evans Above follows Evan Evans’s integration within the new Welsh village he now calls home. Meeting eccentric characters is entertaining in itself, but the drama really kicks in when he is called to the scene of a brutal murder.
Evan Help Us (1998)
After a few minor issues, Evans is faced with a plethora of suspicious events that delve into the histories and hostilities of the Llanfair people. Evan Help Us dives into cultural preservation and the town’s personal side, it’s perfect for gossip lovers.
Evanly Choirs (1999)
After being persuaded to join the town’s choir to help with a local cultural festival, Evans meets Ifor Llewelyn, a famous tenor, but his arrival is a turbulent one. Domestic violence, murder, and scandal are all highly featured in Evanly Choirs.
Evan and Elle (2000)
A new French restaurant opens in the town, which is a hit at first. But when numerous fires crop up across the town and someone loses their life, Evans is sent on a mission to uncover the dark truth behind these seemingly innocent occurrences. Evan and Elle takes the protagonist across the South of England and even into France to track down a dangerous new addition to the Welsh village.
Evan Can Wait (2001)
A World War II German bomber plane is found in a lake nearby causing film crews and cameras to take over the quaint landscape. Evans tries to help keep the peace between the filmmakers and the villagers but interviews allow history to resurrect and conflict soon becomes commonplace. The situation intensifies when one of the filmmakers is found dead and Evans must investigate his murder. Evan Can Wait is a story of history, secrecy, and mystery.
Evans to Betsy (2002)
Evans to Betsy follows the local barmaid, Betsy, as she is persuaded by a self-acclaimed psychic American woman, new to the town, to explore her 6th sense. One of Betsy’s dreams soon reveals a clue behind the disappearance of a key town member and Evans is forced to intervene. Is there truth to all this? Or has Betsy gone too far?
Evan Only Knows (2003)
Evans travels to Swansea to visit his mother but is met with some unwelcome news. The vicious criminal who was responsible for Evan’s father’s murder has been suspected of taking another life. But when Evan meets him in person, he’s not what Evan expected. Instead, he swears his innocence, which sends Evan on a whirlwind investigation exploring both murders, almost at the expense of his job.
Evan Only Knows is much more personal – the family element and the relocation in Swansea make this book feel a little different from its predecessors.
Evan’s Gate (2004)
While renovating a beautiful country cottage, Evan finds a child’s skeleton in his front garden. Curiosity gets the better of him and he is determined to uncover the identity of this person. Although the skeleton is old, Evan can’t help thinking that much of the details coincide with a current missing persons case.
Evan’s Gate is an eerie and suspenseful read, riddled with spine-tingling coincidences and two gripping investigations.
Evan Blessed (2005)
Evan Blessed follows Evan’s investigation of a missing hiker. But the more he uncovers, the more his partner is placed on the firing line of a dangerous killer. How much is he willing to risk for a case?
Evanly Bodies (2006)
Evanly Bodies is a little different from the rest of the series. It involves a Pakistani family, particularly their daughter, Jamila, who finds out her parents have an arranged marriage planned for her back in Pakistan. This unpredictable finale follows Evans as he investigates Jamila’s disappearance and another mysterious murder.
Molly Murphy Series
This series is ongoing, with the latest book and anticipated text being written by Rhys Bowen and her daughter Clare Broyles.
The chronological order and the publication order mostly coincide, so it’s fairly easy to assess which books come next based on their publication dates. Each story is an independent mystery but they all focus on the same protagonists, so their character development is the reason why you should read these books in order.
In addition to the main bulk of the novel series, Rhys Bowen has also published several short stories as brief add-ons to the primary story. These short stories are marked with an asterisk and often serve as linking stories that fill the gaps between the major events held within each novel.
This is the chronological order of the Molly Murphy books.
The Amersham Rubies (2011)*
This is a prequel to the main bulk of the story, so technically, it comes first. It details Molly Murphy’s upbringing in Ireland and contains details that lay the groundwork for the events and characterizations that follow in the primary novels.
However, many readers have claimed that this short story is more enjoyable and makes more sense if it is read in publication order. Knowing the characters before reading about their past can give you a better understanding of the prequel, so you may want to consider reading this between Bless the Bride and Hush Now, Don’t You Cry.
Murphy’s Law (2001)
This is the first official book and was the first one that Rhys Bowen wrote. It’s a great place to start and is a perfectly good read without the prequel.
Murphy’s Law follows Molly Murphy as she desperately tries to flee Ireland after accidentally murdering someone in self-defense. In order to escape prosecution, she journeys to New York, in hope of a better life. But her past follows her across the Atlantic and she gets herself into trouble in America too.
Death of Riley (2002)
With a fresh start in sight, Molly decides to become a private investigator, but just as her apprenticeship begins, her professional life is on the brink of failure thanks to her new boss. She is left to investigate the truth behind her superior and must journey through Manhattan to find it. Death of Riley plunges you back into hard-hitting action, just as you thought you got a break.
For the Love of Mike (2003)
Fighting the strong force of misogyny in the workplace, Molly is still determined to become a professional private investigator. For the Love of Mike follows as Molly is given two intriguing new cases and delves into romance, scandal, and undercover work.
In Like Flynn (2005)
Desperate to prove herself in the male-dominated investigative scene, Molly Murphy goes undercover, working for the NYPD. Her job is to expose two spiritual sisters as the con artists they really are.
In Like Flynn follows as Molly puts herself and her job in danger by taking this risky job. She attends the mansion of Senator Barney Flynn, whose wife is determined to reach her dead son through the psychic powers of these two criminals. But soon Molly has her own spiritual experience and begins questioning whether these two are really the people her superiors think they are.
Oh Danny Boy (2006)
After a tense and dramatic few months, Molly is keen to exit the PI work in favor of something a little more relaxed. But her romantic rollercoaster with her boss, NYPD captain Daniel Sullivan means she feels emotionally obligated to help him with his new legal battle.
Oh Danny Boy is a blend of mystery, action, and romance, and what begins as an aim to escape detective drama, becomes one of Molly’s most intense investigations that not only have emotional strings attached but also involves a renowned serial killer.
In Dublin’s Fair City (2007)
In search of something a little more light-hearted, Molly is again thrown into another investigation. She must find a long-lost babysitter of a fellow Irish immigrant, but her investigation soon harks back to her homeland and Molly is faced with a dilemma. While her Irish roots are tempting, her return is riddled with danger.
In Dublin’s Fair City combines an intriguing investigation with Molly’s personal life and desires. It is emotionally charged and jam-packed with even more toe-curling mysteries than ever.
Tell Me, Pretty Maiden (2008)
Winter in New York is the perfect festive setting for any Christmas fan. Tell Me, Pretty Maiden follows Molly Murphy as she uncovers the mysterious and dark underbelly of New York’s picture-perfect winter scene.
While struggling with a plethora of her own personal issues, including unresolved business with her boss and lover, Daniel Sullivan, Molly takes it upon herself to investigate a suspicious case involving an unconscious woman in Central Park, who wakes up confused and with no recollection of any previous events. While authorities are keen to whisk her away to an institution, Molly takes it upon herself to intervene and get to the bottom of what happened.
In a Gilded Cage (2009)
Set within the turmoil of an influenza epidemic and a women’s suffrage campaign that has rocked social stability, Molly finds herself in jail, fighting for her rights as a woman.
Chinese opium gangs, stolen inheritance money, and cheating husbands are all included in this overflowing book of mystery and deceit. In a Gilded Cage may be Bowen’s most jam-packed book, with subplots intertwining and Molly herself in and out of jail, there’s no better gripping read.
The Last Illusion (2010)
With a ticket to witness Harry Houdini in action, Molly couldn’t be more excited. But work and leisure soon cross over when disaster strikes during the opening act. With an assistant literally sawed in half, and accusations flying across stage, Molly is forced to investigate Houdini and, with a little push from his suspecting wife, Molly finds perhaps the most sinister story yet.
Bless the Bride (2011)
With her own wedding looming, Molly sneakily delves into her last case, before promising to settle down and fully absorb married life.
A missing bride on the loose and a trail of suspicious clues lead Molly to a personal dilemma – is she helping the Chinese woman return to her loving home? Or trapping her in the life she escaped from? Bless the Bride is a captivating story that will keep you on your toes throughout.
Hush Now, Don’t You Cry (2012)
Hush Now, Don’t You Cry details the chilling case that takes place on Molly’s honeymoon. After being invited to honeymoon at a posh estate in Newport, their host, Alderman Hannan shows up dead. Driven by suspicion, Molly and her new husband are sent on a chase to find out the sinister truth behind their romantic getaway.
The Face in the Mirror (2013)*
This series can be read with The Face in the Mirror skipped but just in case you’re interested in this additional short story, here’s a brief synopsis.
Bored with married life, Molly throws herself into political protest. She attends a suffragist meeting in secret and there she meets a quiet woman who claims to live in a haunted house.
The Family Way (2013)
Now pregnant, Molly is restless, bored, and struggling in the summer heat. Even though she has promised to give up her detective work, Molly’s interest is sparked when she receives a letter asking her to help find a missing Irish maid. Soon after, she discovers that 5 babies have been kidnapped and her husband intervenes, thinking she’s taking too much on.
So, she is sent away to live with her mother-in-law, but distance won’t stop her from investigating. The Family Way introduces a new dynamic but still nurtures Molly’s investigative nature and maintains the same mysterious, gripping tone.
Through the Window (2014)
Delighted with the birth of her son, Liam, Molly is restricted to bed rest, but her curious nature can’t allow her to sit still for hours on end. Instead, she watches people out the window and sure enough, she witnesses some things that don’t quite add up.
Through the Window is a great little short story that provides an insightful link between the previous and following novels but as with the other short stories, the series can be enjoyed without it.
City of Darkness and Light (2014)
City of Darkness and Light dives back into the suspenseful, drama-filled tone of Molly’s pre-pregnancy lifestyle. Her husband is being tracked by a large gang and in order to keep the family safe, they relocate to Paris.
But Paris isn’t all as it seemed, two of Molly’s closest friends go missing and to investigate their disappearances, Molly will have to delve through many different Parisian social circles.
The Edge of Dreams (2015)
Daniel is chasing a murderer that has left behind a trail of confusing clues and a bunch of victims with no similarities. After every murder, Daniel is sent a chilling note, so when Daniel receives a letter after Molly and their child get caught in an awful train accident, they both begin to wonder whether that crash was an accident after all.
Still recovering from injuries she obtained in the crash, Molly is determined to continue her investigative work and help her husband crack the case and find who’s responsible. The Edge of Dreams brings murder and suspicion a lot closer to home.
Away in a Manger (2015)
It’s 1905 and Christmas in New York City. With a lovely family of their own, she and her husband are looking forward to the holidays for once. They have a ward staying with them, 12-year-old Bridie, but when an older boy is introduced, Molly realizes that the girl staying with them isn’t who she said she was.
Bridie and the boy are siblings, English, and well-spoken, not the type of children who usually need help. So who are they? Away in a Manger is a captivating story of identity, mystery, and family – a real page-turner and a brilliant, suspenseful festive book to read over the holidays.
Time of Fog and Fire (2016)
Daniel’s job is on the line, so when he is offered a job with the secret service, it’s a no-brainer. He’s forced to keep the details of his cases secret, but when he’s spotted in San Fransisco, she believes that something dangerous is going on.
Daniel is trusting others with the information he’s keeping from his wife – something’s up for sure. Time of Fog and Fire puts Molly and Daniel’s marriage under the microscope and follows as Molly feels insecure and helpless, fighting her instincts and suspicions.
The Ghost of Christmas Past (2017)
Now semi-retired and grieving a traumatic miscarriage, Molly is struggling mentally. The couple is invited to a mansion for Christmas, expecting a peaceful holiday season. But when they arrive they soon learn about their hosts’ lost daughter, who walked out into the snow and never looked back. Relating on a maternal level, Molly feels obligated to help in whatever way she can, but there’s little evidence available.
The Ghost of Christmas Past is an eerie addition to the series and develops a sense of entrapment as Molly and Daniel realize their hosts can’t be trusted.
Wild Irish Rose (2022)
Officially no longer a private detective, Molly is searching for peace and quiet. Wild Irish Rose is a cyclical story that takes Molly back to New York City, where her story began. She feels a sense of familiarity there and the tone of the book is cozy and comforting.
That is until Daniel comes back with news. There was a murder on Ellis Island that very day and the suspect looks identical to Molly.
All That Is Hidden
Molly and Daniel finally have everything they’ve ever wanted. The perfect house, the perfect family, and a drama-free life. So why is Daniel so keen to change everything?
He announces that he wants to run for sheriff which would throw their lives back into crime-related chaos, not to mention, Daniel has never expressed any desire to do this. All That Is Hidden is the eagerly anticipated new addition that is guaranteed to be just as chilling and gripping as the 18 books that precede it.
Her Royal Spyness Series
This series is a little different from her other two, which have more sinister, dark, and mysterious themes running throughout.
The story, as you may have guessed from the title, surrounds royalty, following the life and experiences of Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie (Georgie). Although she’s a cousin of the English King, George V, Georgie lives in poverty and can barely make ends meet, which in 1930s London, was a perilous position. Despite its dreary premise, the story is satirical and humorous and would be a great read for anyone looking for mystery and a little laughter.
Just like her Molly Murphy series, Bowen also wrote an additional short story to accompany the predominant novels in this series. It is written as a prequel but can be understood just as well in publication order. This is another add-on and is marked with an asterisk.
- Masked Ball at Broxley Manor (2012)*
- Her Royal Spyness (2007)
- A Royal Pain (2008)
- Royal Flush (2009)
- Royal Blood (2010)
- Naughty in Nice (2011)
- The Twelve Clues of Christmas (2012)
- Heirs and Graces (2013)
- Queen of Hearts (2014)
- Malice in the Palace (2015)
- Crowned and Dangerous (2016)
- On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service (2017)
- Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding (2018)
- Love and Death Among the Cheetahs (2019)
- The Last Mrs. Summers (2020)
- God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen (2021)
- Peril in Paris (2022)
Red Dragon Academy Series
The previous series are the ones Rhys Bowen is best known for, but if this is to be a complete Rhys Bowen guide, we can’t miss out this additional, unfinished series.
With her daughter, Rhys Bowen co-wrote Red Dragon Academy, which follows 7 children with extraordinary powers. Unlike her other work, this series incorporates strong fantasy themes and is even partially set in a fantasy world called Gallia.
Only one book, Dreamwalker (2014) was written in this series and no plans for further installments were ever unveiled. Sorry if you enjoyed this book, that could be your lot!
If you don’t fancy diving into Rhys Bowen’s series (some of them are very long!), then you can take a look at some of her individual stories.
These books feature her well-established themes and tones and toy with history, espionage, and primarily, mystery. Themes of love, class, and individuality are key to all of her standalone books, which can be thoroughly enjoyed without the partnership of any other of her works.
Because they are not part of a series and all follow their own plot lines, there is no chronological order to accompany these texts. So, they are laid out in order of publication instead. Her standalone novels are as follows:
- In Farleigh Field (2017)
- The Tuscan Child (2018)
- The Victory Garden (2019)
- Above the Bay of Angels (2020)
- The Venice Sketchbook (2021)
- Where the Sky Begins (2022)
- The Paris Assignment (2023)
Standalone Short Stories
Don’t have the attention span for long novels or a series? Here are Rhys Bowen’s standalone short stories to help you get a quick fix of history, mystery, and drama.
Again, these have no correlation to each other and do not have a chronological order. Instead, they are written in publication order. Her standalone short stories are as follows:
- Low School (2012)
- What Child is This (2018)
Love, class, royalty, conflict, vivid landscapes, and eerie atmospheres are just a handful of what you can expect from any Rhys Bowen book. She is a wide-ranging author that has dipped into history, fantasy, romance, war, mystery, and espionage genres so if you’re looking for a new author that can provide you with a plethora of varying material, Rhys Bowen might be your best bet.
Don’t forget that the books released under the Rhys Bowen pseudonym are not the only works this author has produced. If you’re looking for something a little light-hearted or you’re searching for children’s books, her work published under her real name, Janet Quin-Harkin is also brilliant, award-winning books, so be sure to check them out too.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of books does Rhys Bowen write?
Under this name, she predominantly writes historical mysteries.
Where should I start with Rhys Bowen?
If you’re in for the long haul, start with her first series, Constable Evans with book one, Evans Above. However, if you just want to test the waters and see if you like her writing style, perhaps start with one of her standalone books. The Venice Sketchbook is one of the most well-read and vastly decorated books in her repertoire, so that could be a good place to start.
What awards has Rhys Bowen won?
According to her website, she is a New York Times best-selling author who has won the Agatha and Anthony Awards for many of her novels.
Where can I buy Rhys Bowen books?
Online booksellers will likely provide the widest selection of sales. Bookshop.org and IndieBound sell many of her books, but Amazon is a good choice too.
Does Rhys Bowen still do appearances?
Despite her old age, she and her co-writer (daughter Clare Broyles) still do appearances and have upcoming events planned to promote their new book All That Is Hidden. All of her upcoming appearances will take place in California and Arizona.