A version of this review can be found on the StoryLinks website, along with heaps of other reviews of children’s books.
This book is like the younger readers version of Alan Bradley’s Flavia De Luce mysteries and Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart quartet. It features an unconventional, intelligent protagonist, with that arch tone commonly found in Victorian cozy mysteries.
Premeditated Myrtle is the first book in a new cozy mystery series by award-winning author, Elizabeth C Bunce. We meet twelve-year-old Myrtle, who notices things are amiss at her neighbour’s house. Myrtle is training herself to be very Observant (always capitalised in the text), so she can solve crimes. She is able to study her father’s legal books — he is the town prosecutor. She’s also well-versed in toxicology and other forensic sciences, thanks to her late mother’s medical textbooks. Myrtle does tend to see crime everywhere, but this time she happens to be right!
As we all know, in children’s books, the adults need to be out of the picture. This is so the child main character can star and lead the action. Bunce has put a neat spin on this trope by having Myrtle be much more comfortable in adult company than with people her own age. This is not just because she’s precocious, but because she struggles with social cues. The adults in her life are more forgiving of this than the “ideal” young ladies she socialises with.
Myrtle’s father’s work distracts him. Fortunately, Myrtle’s governess, Miss Judson, genuinely takes an interest in what Myrtle has to say. Importantly, she also has faith in her detection skills. Like Myrtle, Miss Judson is on the outer of things, being from French Guinea. Other adult characters involved in the detection business, including the police inspector and the local solicitor, are refreshingly respectful of Myrtle’s ideas.
If you enjoy hanging out with Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes or Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong from Robin Stevens’ Murder Most Unladylike series, you’ll like Myrtle Hardcastle. The great news is that the second book in the series, How to Get Away with Myrtle, came out in October!
A Novel Prescription for:
Lovers of cozy mysteries and adventurous tales for girls.
Written by Elizabeth C Bunce
Published by Algonquin Young Readers 2020, ISBN: 1616209186
Thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Young Readers for my e-ARC, in return for an honest review.