|Premeditated Myrtle / Elizabeth C. Bunce|
NY: Algonquin Young Readers, c2020.
I picked up this delightful middle grade novel recently, after its Edgar Award win. It sounded like just my thing -- 12 yr old heroine Myrtle, Victorian era, a murder next door -- and it delivered.
I loved this book. I laughed, and admired Myrtle's thought processes and use of language. The mystery was clever and the side characters, including Myrtle's father and governess, were also a delight. Although this is a middle grade book, I think that adults would enjoy it as much as their young readers (I know I did!)
As the book opens, Myrtle's elderly neighbour is found dead in her home; Myrtle is convinced it is murder. The police aren't really concerned, an old lady died of apparent heart failure, big deal. But Myrtle pieces together clues from her knowledge of her neighbour's habits, and from her connections to the gardener next door, too.
Handily, Myrtle's governess is a curious sort as well, so doesn't squash her ambition, rather, she gets interested in what's going on. And Mr. Hardcastle is a lawyer, which is convenient for certain things too! The neighbour's niece and nephew appear, checking out the house and their inheritance, and Myrtle's interactions with them are quite amusing. Especially when she starts to feel like the niece has set her cap for Mr. Hardcastle...
And, there's a prescient cat in the picture, which always perks up a story ;)
The style is Victorianish, which appeals to me a lot. But it's not too confusing for the intended age group -- it's reminiscent of both the Flavia de Luce mysteries and the Lemony Snicket series, if you imagine a combination of style and plots. I think any 11-13 yr old who is a big reader would really enjoy this series.
The plot is well done, I don't want to give anything away so will just say that it arises naturally from Myrtle's curiosity and verve. The brilliant cover image gives a hint that flowers are involved in this mystery, and that Myrtle is unafraid of investigations that take her beyond nice Victorian girl behaviours. If you're looking for an entertaining introduction to a new series featuring a delightful sleuth, I recommend this book heartily. It's light and entertaining, with witty dialogue and some lovely characters to get to know.
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