Still Life with Murder is the first in the Nell Sweeney historical mystery series by Patricia Ryan. Set in 1860s Boston, Nell Sweeney, a former nurse, takes a governess position in one of the wealthier neighborhoods. As a confidant to the lady of the house, she is asked to find out what happened when a murder takes place at a disreputable establishment. Her quest takes Nell into the opium dens and less savory parts of Boston while trying to prove the innocence of her employer's son, who has secrets he is trying hard to suppress.
Although at times the story moved a little slowly without much progress, Ms. Ryan sets the stage well and gives detailed descriptions of the locations where Nells finds herself. One of which is an opium den. Addiction to opium was prevalent at the time. Some of the addictions resulted from pain killing medication given during the civil war where there was little option available to reduce the suffering of injured soldiers. I was surprised at the brutality and atrocious conditions at Andersonville, the Confederate Prison where over 45,000 Union soldiers were held without shelter or medical care. There are lots of mysteries that swirl around the characters, one of which is Nell's past and there was a surprising twist at the end. I'm glad that this isn't a stand alone and that we can continue reading about Nell's exploits.