Thursday, May 14, 2020
Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce
In Premeditated Myrtle, Myrtle Hardcastle is a precocious 12-year-old. Her governess, Miss Judson, uses the Socratic method to teach her. Myrtle is a fan of a pulp mystery series about a young (male) detective and reads medical and law books as well as encyclopedias for entertainment. All of which is to say that it isn't surprising she fancies herself a young detective.
One morning, Myrtle is looking through her telescope (which is supposed to be for learning about the stars, but Myrtle is also a little rebellious) and notes that her elderly neighbor and the gardener have not held to their morning routine. Concerned, Myrtle calls the police and they find the elderly neighbor dead in her bathtub. The death is ruled a heart attack but Myrtle is unconvinced and decides to investigate.
Was the elderly neighbor killed by the gardener for her prized lilies? Or was she knocked off by the first cousin, twice removed, with the American accent for her inheritance? What about the nephew in the tragically loud coat? Who had the motive, means, and opportunity to kill Myrtle's neighbor? If she was killed, why did her death appear to be from natural causes? And, what has happened to the old lady's garden plot where she grew her lilies?
Recommended for middle grade and up - There's a lot to this story and at over 350 pages it's a long one for a middle reader but it has loads of wonderful twists and turns. I loved all of the main characters — Myrtle, her governess, her father, the cook. There's also a secondary character thrown in toward the end, Mr. Blakeney. He is a delight. Myrtle is smart beyond her years and knows it but she's also pretty self-aware. She knows when she's not behaving like a proper Victorian girl and she's also well aware that being a young and female, smart or not, means most people are not going to give her the time of day, much less listen to her ideas about a possible murder.
The only things I didn't like about Premeditated Myrtle were the fact that Myrtle almost never bothered even attempting to tell the adults what she'd discovered on the assumption that they wouldn't listen, anyway, and the fact that nobody sounded English but the gardener with the Yorkshire accent (and I can't say if his accent is accurate). I tend to dislike it when characters keep too much to themselves. It's a personal preference, but I favor actual conflict caused by telling the truth and not being believed to lies and secrets. But, there were a couple scenes in which she did try to let people in on a clue or two and they ignored her, just as she suspected they would. I'm sure 12-year-olds will relate to Myrtle's frustrations with the adults, especially on the occasions that she attempted to get them to listen and failed.
My thanks to Alqonquin Young Readers for the review copy! My copy of Premeditated Myrtle says it's a May, 2020 release but I screwed up again and didn't check to see if the release date has been shoved back due to the pandemic. Sure enough, it's now got an October release date, so if you're interested it will have to be pre-ordered. I've opted to go ahead and review while it's fresh in my mind.
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