Monday, November 23, 2020

MMGM- Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

My district returned to remote learning for two weeks since our county Covid cases put us into the "purple" zone. As much as I hate being away from school, being in school was very stressful. Most students were good about wearing masks, but as much effort as was put into distancing students in the class room and cafeteria, the students were not particularly good about social distancing. I tried to be so vigilant about wiping down surfaces, but because of HIPAA, we can't be told which students are being quarantined or are sick. Since I have to take groceries to my 86 year old father, I try to be super careful and only go out to the grocery. 

There are different stresses with remote teaching, but at least they don't center around "Will I somehow infect one of my students or family today."

Bunce, Elizabeth C. Premeditated Myrtle
May 5th 2020 by Algonquin Young Readers
Possibly moved to October 2020
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 1893, Myrtle is being raised by her father, a lawyer, and her governess, Miss Judson, after the death of her mother. Myrtle is very interested in the law, crime, and the art of detection, so she is especially interested when her older neighbor, Miss Wodehouse, is found dead in her bathtub. Miss Wodehouse raised and propagated Gilded Slipper lilies and was wealthy, and Myrtle feels that something is not right. Between the missing cat, the state of the garden, and details she uncovers (like the state of Miss Wodehouse's nightgown), Myrtle has plenty to keep her investigating. Add a niece and nephew who could inherit, and the plot thickens. Her father objects more for show than in order for real change to be made, and Miss Judson is ready to encourage her charge. The Victorian era was not a great time for a young lady to be interested in science, much less crime, but Myrtle manages to stay out of trouble most of the time, and even manages to make friends with Caroline, the daughter of Dr. Munjal. Will she be able not only to prove that Miss Wodehouse was murdered, but to solve the case?
Strengths: There were a lot of twists and turns that I didn't see coming, which I always appreciate in a mystery. Myrtle and Miss Judson rode bicycles, believed that girls were as good as boys, and dealt with the strictures of society in a realistic, if enthusiastic, manner. The way Myrtle was treated by her peers ran true to the time period. The lilies added an interesting touch, as did the gardener.
Weaknesses: Myrtle wasn't that nice; she was privileged and spoiled and did not take other's feelings into account. Comparisons to Bradley's Flavia de Luce are apt. While it's nice to see some cultural diversity, I'm not sure how accurate it is to the time period; I just don't have that information.
What I really think: This was a well done mystery which I bought it for the students who like Robin Stevens' Wells and Wong mysteries, which have been a steady circulator. I need to hand sell this a bit, but once I assure readers it has a "good murder" in it, they are much keener!

49150992Bunce, Elizabeth C. Premeditated Myrtle
October 6th 2020 by Algonquin Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After her murder investigation, Myrtle's father has to go to Paris for a conference, but wants his daughter out of the limelight. He sends her and Miss Judson on a seaside excursion with her overbearing great aunt Helena. There is a train trip organized by Sir Quentin Ballingall and his daughter Temperance, and the group will then stay at the fancy Ballingal Arms near the seaside. Myrtle is enthralled when she meets Mrs. Bloom, who is an insurance investigator who is not pleased at how Sir Quention is transporting the very expensive Northern Lights tiara her company has insured. When Temperance wears the tiara to perform a song for the passengers, the lights cut out and the tiara is stolen! Myrtle is all set to investigate with Mrs. Bloom, and the two have a breakfast meeting arranged to discuss this. When the investigator doesn't show, we know that no good can come of this turn of events. Not only that, but there are deep scars in the community where the hotel is located, stemming from a tragic pleasure boat fire in the past. Soon, Myrtle is thrust into a murder investigation on top of the theft, and must deal with helpful people, like photographer Clive Roberts and her old friend Mr. Blakeney, but must also contend with the inept investigator Arkwright and vaguely annoying people like her aunt's companion. Her aunt comes under suspicion for both the thefts and the murder and is arrested. Myrtle would like to contact her father to make things right, but Miss Judson thinks that they can solve the case themselves.
Strengths:The events and characters in this book will certainly seem familiar to readers who have delved deep into Christie, Sayers, and other British authors from the 1920s era of crime fiction. My students often ask for murder mysteries, and this definitely qualifies. The train travel and seaside resort are an interesting setting, and Miss Judson is about as engaging a governess as ever graced the pages of literature. Myrtle is a plucky young woman with definite career interests, and is not afraid of getting her own way.
Weaknesses: Myrtle isn't the most likable character, and she comes across as a bit bratty in the first chapter, where she is complaining about her vacation. She gets better, but she was hard to take in the first chapter.
What I really think: Historical mysteries are harder to sell than other kinds in my library; the kids will pick them up for the murder, but would prefer that they be modern. Robin Stevens' Wells and Wong does well, mainly because of the boarding school aspect and the fact that teachers die, but I buy these in the hopes that they will be a gateway to classic British mysteries. 
Ms. Yingling


  1. I loved Myrtle and am looking forward to the next in the series.. Maybe using Enola Holmes might also help sell this series to your young readers..

  2. I would imagine kids would prefer more contemporary mysteries, but I think it's great you are encouraging them to read British mysteries, where a turn of phrase can mean something different than what Americans know. These novels sound fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Yes, we have also returned to remote learning until the second week of January. Bummer.
    I love a good historical mystery and this series sounds like the perfect escapism. I've added it to my future read list and thanks for featuring on MMGM today.

  4. Wow, that sounds tough! I hope things get better at your school. Thanks for sharing about the Myrtle books...I've never heard about them before!

    My post:

  5. I have a real problem with unlikable main characters. That is a hard sell for me. That said, I live Agatha Christie mysteries, so that is attractive. Maybe I will give one of these a try. Thanks for your thoughts.

  6. I'm really sorry you're having to deal with all the coronavirus issues at school! I can imagine both going in and working virtually are stressful in their own ways. Both of these books look fantastic—I do love the Wells and Wong series by Robin Stevens, so I can imagine another series of MG British mysteries would be right up my alley! Thanks for the great review!

  7. Interesting. I have read the first of the Flavia de Luce books. I do like a good historical mystery. (I'm with you on the diversity thing. I love diversity in books, but it does rub me the wrong way if it's not historically accurate.)

  8. I love murder mysteries. The mention of Flavia de Luce clinched it for me. I didn't even finish reading the rest of your post before heading off to discover if my library had these. I'm even more excited to know that there is a second in the series.

  9. I'm glad to hear you have less chance of getting sick or passing on the virus to someone else, Karen. Our cases and deaths have rapidly increased over November, so it's been unnerving to be out in public at all. Thank you for sharing the Myrtle Hardcastle Series. I just looked it up and see we have the first in the series (it's currently checked out), so hopefully we'll get more as they're released. Hope you're having a wonderful Thanksgiving week!