Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth Bunce

Premeditated Myrtle introduces a precocious 12-year-old Victorian detective with a trusty governess sidekick.

Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth Bunce. Algonquin Young Readers, 2020, 355 pages.

Reading Level: Middle grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 10-14

Introducing Myrtle Hardcastle, age 12, daughter of a prominent public solicitor (and eligible widower). Myrtle loves her father’s profession: “the way he pierced together individual bits of evidence into a clear, undeniable picture. It was like the way the planets fit together in the heavens, or the sixty-six elements in the Periodic Table. A natural order to the universe, life and death, good and evil, law and order.”

Obviously not the typical well-bred young lady of 1880s British society, but besides her natural acumen Myrtle has some other advantages. Such as her governess, Miss Judson, who possesses a similar inquiring mind. Inquiries overflow in the chapter one, when Myrtle observes suspicious activity in the next-door-neighbor’s yard, followed by news of the elderly neighbor’s death. Of natural causes, of course. But Myrtle has reason to suspect foul play . . .  

She narrates the plot with in slightly stylized Victorian polish, aided by footnotes and asides. Readers will detect a Holmes-and-Watson vibe to her partnership with her governess, though Miss Judson is not nearly as clueless as the good doctor. Myrtle resolutely follows up clues and capitalizes on chance acquaintances in the best amateur-detective style, and mystery lovers will enjoy following her through the plot twists. They may even guess the murderer.

Overall Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic/literary value: 4

Also at Redeemed Reader:

  • Aggie Morton is another historical sleuth we’ve reviewed, this one not entirely fictional.
  • Speaking of mystery, the inaugural issue of the Redeemed Reader Quarterly is all about mystery.
  • For some real-life forensics, see our review of the first volume in the FBI Files Series: The Unabomber.

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Janie

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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