The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder / Rachel McMillan
Toronto: Harvest House, c2016.
"In 1910 Toronto, while
other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands,
two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer."
I think this publisher's blurb really says it all. It summarizes just what it is about this novel that makes it so much fun to read.
Merinda and Jem are roommates in 1910 Toronto, which is unusual enough. But Merinda is also obsessed with Sherlock Holmes (her spiritual doppelganger) and starts advertising herself as a detective. Jem gets pulled along, as Merinda's Watson, as they start investigating how and why young Irish women are dying across the city.
Of course, being young women, they are limited as to where they can go and what they can do -- so they become masters of disguise (one of the funniest scenes is when poor Jem is dressed as a man and supposed to be staking out a theatre, and runs into a journalist). They also develop partnerships with said journalist, Ray DeLuca, as well as police constable Jasper Forth, who have to fight their own prejudices in the face of Merinda and Jem's fortitude and competency.
The tone of this novel is light; it's a bit campy, a bit ahistorical, but completely enjoyable. Toronto is a great setting for this series, as its very straightlaced reputation is a nice contrast with the underbelly, the hidden criminal life which Jem and Merinda find themselves investigating. I think this series has legs - the characters have lots of room for growth, the storylines hold a multitude of possibilities, and the crimes are nefarious but not gory. This is a campy cozy, if there is such a thing. And it is delightful. I look forward to reading the next entry in the series, A Lesson in Love and Murder.
Anyone who likes Victorian/Edwardian era Toronto & mysteries told with a light hand will surely enjoy Maureen Jennings' Murdoch Mysteries -- and of course the immensely popular tv series based on these books.
Janet Kellough's Thaddeus Lewis mysteries are set a little further back, in the 1840s/50s, but also explore Toronto and beyond in early Ontario. They also feature an unusual detective -- a saddlebag preacher.