Elizabeth C. Bunce
October 6, 2020
Algonquin Young Readers
About the books: In Book 1: Premeditated Myrtle, you will meet your favorite new amateur detective: a wickedly smart 12-year-old with a keen interest in the new tools of criminology and a nose for murder in the Victorian English village where her father is the local prosecutor. After the mysterious death of her neighbor, a wealthy spinster and eccentric breeder of rare flowers, Myrtle takes it upon herself to follow the clues official investigators missed alongside her unflappable governess, Miss Ada Judson, and her new cat, Peony. In Book 2: How to Get Away with Myrtle, Myrtle boards a train bound for the countryside with her insufferable Aunt Helen anticipating a relaxing–and boring–vacation. Only, when precious cargo goes missing and a body is found, the trip is derailed. What’s a smart, bored Young Lady of Quality to do but follow the evidence to find out which of her fellow travelers is a thief and a murderer?
Myrtle Hardcastle, the precocious 12-year old daughter of a prosecutor, loves mysteries and things that other girls her age find strange like poisons, causes of death–yes, Morbid Myrtle. Since she aspires to be an investigator, it’s only natural that she follows her passion and becomes embroiled in situations that are not suitable for a well-bred young lady. Set in Victorian England, the Myrtle Hardcastle series is appealing and charming, with wonderful characters and intriguing plots.
We meet Myrtle in Book 1 of the series, Premediatated Myrtle, in which the Hardcastle’s neighbor meets an untimely death. Observant and nosy, Myrtle is the first to realize that something is wrong next door. Being irrepressible, Myrtle wanders where she shouldn’t. Myrtle’s governess, Miss Judson, is a definite role model. She’s smart with a sense of humor and understands that Myrtle is not an ordinary girl so she allows Myrtle her eccentricities. In addition, Miss Judson helps Myrtle investigate, which I thought was very cool.
In Premediatated Myrtle, Myrtle also inherits a very special cat, Peony, who communicates with them and offers her own opinions.
Premediatated Myrtle is a wonderful beginning for this series. The mystery kept me guessing, led me astray right along with Myrtle, and had a satisfying conclusion. I liked that while Myrtle is very smart, she’s still a kid and prone to reacting like a kid.
In How to Get Away with Myrtle, Myrtle, her great aunt Helena for whom she’s named (Helena Myrtle), and Miss Judson embark on a train journey to the seaside. Along the way, an expensive tiara is stolen and then the woman investigator who becomes Myrtle’s hero is murdered. While Miss Judson at first tries to dissuade Myrtle from becoming involved, we all know that this is an impossibility.
How to Get Away with Myrtle is another excellent mystery with surprises. Just as in the first novel, this one is well written with a good amount of humor as well as drama. And, yes, Peony has joined the travelers on their journey so the reader gets to enjoy this special cat who also manages to save her mistress.
I marveled over Elizabeth C. Bunce’s writing. The detail and insights are perfect. Both books are written in first person from Myrtle’s POV so that we can see what it is like to be this smart, sometimes smart-ass, 12-year old and the diction, vocabulary, and observations just made this story so much fun for me to read.
While this series is geared toward middle-grade readers (10 to 18 years), I loved it. This series would make an excellent present for your child, which you, of course, could also get to read. The intelligent, witty writing was a joy.
I received ARCs of both novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
5 out of 5 butterflies