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This is the second book in the Murdoch Mysteries series, set in Toronto in the late 1800s, and featuring Detective William Murdoch.  The series spawned three movie length television films, and a five (so far) season television show.  The television show is one of my favourite programmes, and I was eager to read the books.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series, and this one is no disappointment either.

In this installment of the Murdoch Mysteries, a woman named Dolly Merishaw is found murdered in her home.  Murdoch discovers that she was a former midwife, who provided a place for unwed mothers to have their children, as well as providing drugs to aid abortion, but that her mean and greedy nature caused a lot of anger and resentment among the women whom she ‘helped’.  He quickly discovers that she is the victim of murder, and there are no shortage of suspects.  However, when one of her young foster sons is also discovered dead a week later, he has no idea whether he is looking for one murderer or two.  His investigation takes him to some surprising places, and he realises that a lot of people have secrets which they wish to remain hidden.

As with the first book, the story is pacey, and kept me guessing throughout.  (There were clues to point the reader in the right direction, but Maureen Jenning is capable of throwing in some surprises as well!)  I really like the character of Murdoch, although he is quite different from the Murdoch of the tv series.  As portrayed in the book, he comes across as less sensitive and somewhat coarser.  His faithful sidekick Constable Crabtree is as amiable and likeable as viewers of the show know him to be, although in the book, his physical description is very different, and he has a wife, whereas in the tv show, he is a bachelor.  Brackenreid barely appears in the book, and is not a very likeable character when he does(!).  This book gives the first mention of Doctor Julia Ogden – a main character in the tv show.

This particular book takes Murdoch through the upper and lower classes of Toronto, and I thought the portrayal of the city in the late 1800s was particularly evocative and enjoyable.  Clearly, the author has researched her subject extensively.

Overall, I found this to be a very enjoyable read, and would definitely recommend it, especially to fans of crime and/or historical fiction.

(Author’s website can be found here.  For more information about the television show Murdoch Mysteries, please click here.)

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Click here for my review of season 1 of the television series, Murdoch Mysteries.

Click here for my review of the first Murdoch Mysteries novel, Except The Dying.

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This is the first book in a series of seven, which are collectively known as the Murdoch Mysteries, all of which feature a Canadian Police Detective named William Murdoch, who solves crimes in the late 1800s, in Toronto.  Three of the novels were adapted into television movies, starring Peter Outerbridge as the title character, and a five season (so far) television show, with Yannick Bisson in the title role, featuring the characters from the books, but with all new storylines, has proved very successful.  The tv series is one of my favourite shows, so I was looking forward to reading the novels, and seeing where the character of William Murdoch began. 

I certainly was not disappointed.  This fascinating novel which combines crime drama and historical fiction, is quite different from the tv show – Doctor Julia Ogden does not appear in this book at all, and Inspector Brackenridge only plays a minor role, whereas both of these characters are major characters in the show.

However, I do not intend for this review to be a comparison between the show and the books, especially as both are equally enjoyable in their own right.  The story in this first Murdoch book revolves around the death of a young lady, who is found naked and frozen to death one wintery night.  As Murdoch and his colleague, Constable Crabtree investigate the murder, they find that almost everyone connected with the young girl has secrets of their own, and there seems to be no shortage of suspects for the crime.

The ending was not predictable; a few times I thought I had worked out who was responsible, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The character of Murdoch is well drawn, as is that of Constable Crabtree.  Also, the family with whom the dead girl resided were also well fleshed out.  There were no real gimmicks or twists in the story – just a very well told detective story, which showed Murdoch’s quick intelligence and dogged determination.  I also thought that life in Toronto in the late 1800s was well depicted,with the atmosophere leaping off the page.

It’s a cliche to say it, but this book really was a page turner.  I would highly recommend it to any fans of historical fiction or crime novels, and I look forward to reading the subsequent books in the series.

(Author’s website can be found here.  For more information about the television show Murdoch Mysteries, please click here.)

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Click here for my review of season 1 of the television series, Murdoch Mysteries.

Click here for my review of the second Murdoch Mysteries novel, Under the Dragon’s Tail.

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Reta Winters has a nice house, a lovely common-law husband of 26 years, three daughters and a blossoming career as a writer of light fiction.  However, her world has started to fall apart since her eldest daughter Norah started living on the streets, begging in Toronto, wearing a sign around her neck that simply says ‘Goodness’.

Throughout the book, Reta tries to determine what happened in Norah’s life to cause her to drop out of university, finish with her boyfriend, and start begging on streets.  She also talks about her daily life, her struggle to write a sequel to her first novel, her constant worries about Norah’s health and welfare, and her relationships with friends and family.

Unfortunately this book didn’t really work for me.  It was narrated by Reta and she seemed to be a very self-absorbed character, who never stopped pondering life’s questions; nothing wrong with that of course, but she seemed to find questions everywhere, and the narrative seemed to get bogged down in her over analytical thoughts and navel gazing.

Obviously, the reader is seeing Reta at a desperately worrying time in her life, and I felt sympathy for her plight, but she never seemed like a believable character to me.  It also didn’t seem like the reader was given much of a chance to know her other two daughters, and certainly her partner Tom was never really described at all beyond having an interest in trilobites.  Throughout the book, Reta writes letters to people who have offended her – the authors of articles in magazines for instance.  These letters were all about Reta’s anger at women in general being ignored by men in society.  It seemed somewhat ironic that the male in Reta’s family was largely ignored as a character in the story.

It isn’t all bad – I was eager to find out what specific event, if any, had caused Norah to effectively give up on society, and there was a lovely scene near the end involving Reta’s annoying, pushy new editor.  The writing was usually very elegant, and this is a book that has had lots of very positive reviews.  I could appreciate the writing, even if I didn’t really always enjoy it.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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I’ve just finished the first season of this riveting crime drama.  The show is set in Toronto in the 1890s, and centres on the character of Detective William Murdoch (played by Yannick Bisson).  Murdoch uses unusual – bit often effective – methods to solve crime, including the lifting of fingerprints (“fingermarks”), surveillance and trace evidence.  His boss, Inspector Thomas Brackenreid (Thomas Craig) often gets exasperated with Murdoch’s methods, being a much more down to earth and straight talking Policeman, but he respects and likes Murdoch and acknowledges that he often achieves good results. George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), an eager young Constable, usually partners Murdoch in his work, and although he is sometimes a little naive, he is often able to provide valuable insight and initiative.  The main cast is completed by Doctor Julia Ogden (Helene Joy) as the forward thinking pathologist, who is often able to provide clues to a mystery.  There is also a frisson of attraction between Murdoch and Ogden; I look forward to seeing how their relationship pans out.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this show.  It’s the perfect mix of mystery (very often, the ending was a bolt out of the blue and something I would not have predicted) and humour.  However, there were some genuinely sinister moments and gruesome scenarios.  Being a fan of period drama, I loved all the scene settings and costumes too, but I am confident that a love of period drama is not necessary to enjoy this show.

Because the main cast is small, each character is given time to develop; my favourite is probably the loveable Crabtree, who provides much of the humour.  Brackenreid reminded me of how Life On Mars’ Gene Hunt would have been if he were transported back to the 1890s, and Julia Ogden is a great female lead – feisty, intelligent and independent.  Of course, the show is really Murdoch’s, and Yannick Bisson is perfect for the role.

There are currently three seasons of the show, and a fourth is on the way.  There were three television movies made prior to this show.  These were collectively called The Murdoch Mysteries, and starred Peter Outerbridge as the eponymous main character, Keeley Hawes as Julia Ogden, Matthew MacFadzean as Crabtree and Colm Meaney as Brackenreid.  These movies were based on the original novels by Maureen Jennings, and although I have not seen or read these shows or the books, I intend to do so.

For any fans of crime, this television show is highly recommended!

(Official website for Murdoch Mysteries can be found here.)

Year of release: 2008

Directors: (inc.) Don McBrearty, Shawn Thompson, Farhad Mann, Laurie Lynd

Writers: (inc.) Maureen Jennings (books), Alexandra Zarowny, Cal Coons, Paul Aitken, Jean Greig

Main cast: Yannick Bisson, Thomas Craig, Jonny Harris, Helene Joy

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Click here for my review of Except the Dying, the first book in the Murdoch Mysteries series.

Click here for my review of Under the Dragon’s Tail, the second book in the Murdoch Mysteries series.

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