I am utterly thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Elizabeth C. Bunce’s Myrtle Hardcastle series, and to share my thoughts with you on Books 1 and 2 in the series respectively!
Premeditated Myrtle blurb: Twelve-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle has a passion for justice and a Highly Unconventional obsession with criminal science. Armed with her father’s law books and her mum’s microscope, Myrtle studies toxicology, keeps abreast of the latest developments in crime scene analysis, and Observes her neighbors in the quiet village of Swinburne, England.
When her next-door neighbor, a wealthy spinster and eccentric breeder of rare flowers, dies under Mysterious Circumstances, Myrtle seizes her chance. With her unflappable governess, Miss Ada Judson, by her side, Myrtle takes it upon herself to prove Miss Wodehouse was murdered and find the killer, even if nobody else believes her — not even her father, the town prosecutor.
With sparkling wit and a tight, twisty plot, Premeditated Myrtle, the first in a series from an award-winning author, introduces a brilliant young investigator ready to take on hard cases and maddening Victorian rules for Young Ladies of Quality in order to earn her place among the most daring and acclaimed amateur detectives of her time or any other.
My review of Premeditated Myrtle:
My initial reaction on reading Premeditated Myrtle is that this just couldn’t be a children’s book… it is too good! Of course, this is exactly the standard children’s books should be, but I can definitely confirm that adults will thoroughly love Myrtle Hardcastle’s adventures too.
Myrtle, the main character, obviously, is a precocious twelve year old, obsessed with the details of criminal investigation and detection and determined to do her prosecutor father (and deceased, medical mother) proud. I was reminded very much of both Harriet the Spy and Flavia de Luce (firm favourites of mine), but Elizabeth C. Bunce has added some extra layers of humour to her intrepid junior detective’s story (and just a hint of romance among the older characters).
Myrtle’s partner in crime-solving is her governess, Miss Judson, who – far from discouraging Myrtle’s extracurricular activities – actively participates in them. This is one of the lovely aspects about the story: that no matter how suspicious, aggravated or amused other adults might be (and even Myrtle’s father has his reservations about some of her activities) by Myrtle’s investigatory skills, Miss Judson takes her very seriously and encourages her young charge’s curiosity and helps to hone her skills of rational deduction.
The plot here follows traditional ‘golden age of detective fiction’ lines, with a dead neighbour and a cast of suspicious friends and family of the deceased, each with good reason to wish her ill. Myrtle is actually in the perfect position to investigate, as her age and sex cause adults to continually overlook and/or underestimate her, and allow her free access to places she has no business to be in.
Overall, this is a wonderful introduction to a brand new character and series – ideal for middle grade and adult mystery fans alike. I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Book 2, and luckily for you, you don’t have to either as my thoughts are just below!
“I cannot wait to learn what method you’ve devised for extracting the testimony of a cat.”– Elizabeth C. Bunce, Premeditated Myrtle
“Don’t make fun of me.”
“I would never,” she said. “But, Myrtle, you have to admit that even for you, collecting a cat as a witness is a bit fanciful.”
I hesitated. Adults tended to call me many things, the nicest being “precocious,” “curious,” and “irrepressible”—which I did not think was the compliment they pretended it to be—but compared to other children my age, I was not generally considered “fanciful.” Miss Judson was an excellent judge of character, however, so if she suggested I was being anything but strictly rational, it gave me pause.
“Very well,” I said carefully. “Perhaps we should go speak to Mr. Hamm. We’ll need to know what to do about my botany lessons, anyway.”
Get it here: Premeditated Myrtle on Amazon
How to Get Away with Myrtle blurb: Before the train has left the station, England’s most accomplished new detective already is on a suspect’s trail, and readers will be delighted to travel along.
Myrtle Hardcastle has no desire to go on a relaxing travel excursion with her aunt Helena when there are More Important things to be done at home, like keeping close tabs on criminals and murder trials. Unfortunately, she has no say in the matter. So off Myrtle goes—with her governess, Miss Judson, and cat, Peony, in tow—on a fabulous private railway coach headed for the English seaside.
Myrtle is thrilled to make the acquaintance of Mrs. Bloom, a professional insurance investigator aboard to protect the priceless Northern Lights tiara. But before the train reaches its destination, both the tiara and Mrs. Bloom vanish. When Myrtle arrives, she and Peony discover a dead body in the baggage car. Someone has been murdered—with Aunt Helena’s sewing shears.
The trip is derailed, the local police are inept, and Scotland Yard is in no rush to arrive. What’s a smart, bored Young Lady of Quality stranded in a washed-up carnival town to do but follow the evidence to find out which of her fellow travelers is a thief and a murderer?
My review of How to Get Away with Myrtle:
Myrtle returns for another adventure, and this time she is taking to the road… well, rail… with her beloved Miss Judson and less-beloved Aunt Helena. Can our young detective-in-training still practice her skills when she is out of her comfort zone, away from her resources, and under the disapproving eye of the family battleaxe?
Of course, she can… after all, Myrtle IS irrepressible!
In this story, she faces another classically-Christie style murder, whilst dodging responsible adult influences and making some new friends (and enemies!). As well as Harriet the Spy and Flavia de Luce, I got a distinct flavour of Amelia Peabody in Myrtle’s determined focus on finding the truth and fulfilling her ambitions, against the doubts and expectations of those around her. I could definitely see an adult Myrtle poking miscreants out of her way with a parasol!
It was lovely to see my own personal favourite character, Mr Blakeney, making a return this time around and I cheered his appearance as much as I booed Aunt Helena’s. But these are no pantomime characters, and Elizabeth C. Bunce develops even her side characters into more complex and nuanced individuals, subverting reader expectations delightfully.
This is another rippingly good adventure tale for young – and older – readers, and I am definitely adding copies of these books to my personal shelves. I love it when I find a new favourite author!
Fellow fans of classic mystery novels with unique characters, and a light, humorous style of writing, are sure to love these books as much as I do. I can’t wait to introduce Myrtle to Minishine!
I turned away and shoved the chemisettes into the trunk. If this were a proper holiday, Father would be coming with us, not separating us with a whole ocean.” On a Proper Holiday, Father and Miss Judson might even frolic on the beach together. They’d Promenade on the Pier together. We could be a Proper Family, just the three of us. Instead, Miss Judson and I were being Exiled to the seaside, while Father got as far away from us as possible.– Elizabeth C. Bunce, How to Get Away with Myrtle
Miss Judson turned me to face her. “You may not believe this, but your father just wants you to have a good time—”
“I’d have a good time in Paris. With him.”
“—doing something that does not involve murder.”
I glowered at her. “An ordinary holiday. Like an ordinary girl.”
“Exactly. I’m sure you can manage that. Rumor has it you’re clever and resourceful.”
Get it here: How to Get Away with Myrtle on Amazon
Elizabeth C. Bunce grew up on a steady diet of Sherlock Holmes, Trixie Belden, and Quincy, M.E., and always played the lead prosecutor in mock trial. She has never had a governess, and no one has ever accused her of being irrepressible, but a teacher did once call her “argumentative”–which was entirely untrue, and she can prove it. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and their cats.