I’m back today to talk about two delightful middle-grade mysteries!
Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce
My Edition: ARC Paperback – 359 pages – 2020 – Algonquin Young Readers – ISBN: 9781616209186 (hardcover)
Thank you to Algonquin for sending me this book for free in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.
From the back of the book: Armed with her father’s law books and her mum’s microscope, twelve-year-old Myrtle studies toxicology, keeps abreast of modern developments in crime scene analysis, and observes her neighbors in the quiet Victorian village of Swinburne, England. When her next-door neighbor, a wealthy spinster and eccentric breeder or rare flowers, dies under Mysterious Circumstances, Myrtle seizes her chance. With her unflappable governess, Miss Ada Judson, by her side, Myrtle follows the clues and hunts for evidence that will prove Miss Wodehouse was murdered and lead to the killer, even if nobody else believes her – not even her father, the town prosecutor.
If you’re familiar with my taste in reading, you know I love a middle-grade (MG) mystery novel. I’m happy to report that the first two books in the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery series didn’t disappoint!
Like most protagonists I’ve encountered in middle-grade mysteries, Myrtle is inquisitive, driven, and a precocious detective. Her upbringing also aided her in these skills, as her mother was a nurse and her father is a prosecutor.
The story is fun (well, as fun as a murder mystery geared towards younger readers can be) and engaging. Myrtle is a great main character, and overall I liked the tone/writing style. The story kept me going and I enjoyed it all the way through – there’s your quick review if you wanted one.
One thing I wanted to make sure I brought up, however, is Miss Judson, Myrtle’s governess. This is the first MG mystery I’ve read where there’s an adult whose actually genuinely supportive of the young detective’s sleuthing and recognizes their intelligence and skills! I think this is sooooo important! I really hate when in books (and movies) not a single adult believes the kids when they say something important, especially when those characters are already proven to be pretty intelligent/sensible/mature. Even in my fave MG mystery series (Wells & Wong), the adults don’t support the girls solving crimes. I love Miss Judson so much because she keeps Myrtle grounded while encouraging her passion and skills and even helping her solve crimes.
In addition to a supportive adult, the Myrtle series does another thing I really love to see in MG novels: highlighting new vocabulary! I love learning new words and I think it’s great when MG novels include words that young readers aren’t likely to encounter regularly. But I’ll admit, I don’t often like to take the time to look up a word (even with a smartphone constantly at my side) because it takes me out of the story and there’s always a chance I’ll get distracted on my phone. I can mostly infer meaning based on the sentence, but sometimes not, and I’ll just move on without really knowing the word. My guess is that some younger readers will do the same. Myrtle helpfully adds asterisks to certain words, places, or events and a little footnote at the bottom of the page. Perfect!
I’m currently about two-thirds of the way through book two (How to Get Away with Myrtle, hardcover ISBN: 9781616209193), and enjoying it as well. Also, the titles are playful and clever and I look forward to seeing future ones.
Another neat little detail present in both books is the excerpts from what are presumably guides Myrtle has penned. In the first book, we get tips from her Principles of Detection on how to be an investigator. In book two we have travel tips from Hardcastle’s Practical Travel Companion. I’m a sucker for details like this and it helps add even more character to Myrtle.
So, if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a fan of this series and it’s certainly one I’d recommend. Both books released this month, so be sure to check them out if middle-grade mysteries are your thing!
Also here are a few bonus photos because the design of the books is cute: