I’ve decided to include both reviews for the first two books in the Myrtle Hardcastle series in this post. Hopefully, these reviews will give readers a good insight into what to expect with these wonderful books.
If I had to sum up “Premeditated Myrtle” in one word it would be: delightful. Elizabeth C. Bunce has created a perfect heroine for middle grade readers with Myrtle Hardcastle. Set in 19th century England, Myrtle is a 12-year-old who is fascinated with solving crimes (partly because of her father being a prosecutor). She’s spunky, precocious, and incredibly smart. With her attention to detail and powers of deduction, Myrtle makes for a wunderkind detective a la a young Sherlock Holmes.
Readers get to see Myrtle’s detective skills in action when her elderly neighbor turns up dead under unusual circumstances. Myrtle begins investigating the death (even while her father expressly forbids it). I was so pleased that Myrtle was given a true mystery to solve (rather than some of the lamer Nancy Drew ones like missing clocks and so forth). I also loved how principled Myrtle is – she has a clear sense of wrong and right and feels she must correct every misjustice she comes across (especially if she feels she’s at the root of it). This makes her a moral figure that kids can really look up to (and that imbues a sense of drama into all of Myrtle’s actions).
Of course, the mystery follows a predictable formula – a few red herrings before the big reveal of the actual culprit. But I think kids who haven’t read a ton of formulaic mysteries will be eager to read the twists that come up in the plot. My favorite part of the novel is the humor. Myrtle is being coached to be a “Young Woman of Quality” as was befitting the time period. But she just can’t seem to avoid getting into trouble (which usually looks like her speaking up when she should be quiet or disobeying her father’s wishes). All of this is told with such heartwarming humor that I felt myself smile so many times while reading it.
I’m so glad Bunce decided to create a series around Myrtle – she’s one of the best young, female protagonists I’ve read in quite some time. And I think she exhibits qualities that are not only fun to read about, but could also serve as a good role model for young readers. I can’t wait to see what adventures Myrtle gets into next!
*Free ARC provided by Netgalley and Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review*
“How to Get Away with Myrtle”
First off, these Myrtle Hardcastle books are wonderful to read one after the other – the two first books would create the perfect start to a series for any young reader. While “Premeditated Myrtle” had a Sherlock Holmes vibe, this book is all about the Agatha Christie inspiration.
The second book opens with Myrtle going on holiday with her aunt (whom she despises) and her beloved governess (a relationship that just warms my heart). Myrtle’s father suggests the trip in order to get away from the stress of the crime that Myrtle just got finished solving in the first book. The three of them begin their adventure with a train ride, and the very first night a famous tiara is stolen in the middle of the journey. At first, I was discouraged that this mystery wouldn’t have any real consequences or true drama, but then one of the train’s passengers ends up murdered, and Myrtle becomes determined to solve both of the cases. A murder (while a tad violent for a middle-grade book) actually makes the reader care more about the high stakes of the mystery. With so many passengers on the train, there are tons of suspects (much in the vein of Murder on the Orient Express).
It was a tad confusing in the beginning to keep the characters and their backstories straight but because we’re already familiar with Myrtle and a few other characters, there was still a great flow to the story. I also love how Myrtle tries so hard to be a “Young Lady of Quality” and avoid any unladylike detective work but the mysteries keep falling right in her lap!
Since Myrtle is such a fantastic, whip-smart heroine, I think young readers will really fall in love with her. Plus, it’s an added bonus that the book is set in the 19th century, so readers might end up learning some new things about the past.
I hope there are many other books to come in this series – I can’t wait to recommend these first two Myrtle books!
*Free ARC provided by Netgalley and Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest