The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder
By Rachel McMillan
Herringford & Watts Mysteries, #1
Harvest House, 2016
In 1910 Toronto, while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer.
Inspired by their fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes, best friends and flatmates Merinda and Jem launch a consulting detective business. The deaths of young Irish women lead Merinda and Jem deeper into the mire of the city's underbelly, where the high hopes of those dreaming to make a new life in Canada are met with prejudice and squalor.
While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest. Merinda could well be Toronto's premiere consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever---if they can stay alive long enough to do so.
From its ingenious cover to the charm, wit, and wonderful historical detail that fill its pages, The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder is a fascinating and highly entertaining read. This story is different – quite different from anything I’ve ever come across, in fact – and in this case, different is very good.
The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder is the first full-length novel in the Herringford and Watts series – mysteries set during 1910 in Edwardian-era Toronto that revolve around longtime friends, Merinda and Jem. Huge fans of Sherlock Holmes, they set up their own detective agency, using his methods and inspiration as means of detection. The result is so very funny as they delve into their trunk of costumes, often masquerading as men, yet they manage great success.
I thought the historical detail was fantastic, for not only is Rachel extremely knowledgeable, but the narrative exudes her love and passion for Toronto during this era. Rachel has an ability to not only pull you into the scenes, but make you feel them as well – a world where political corruption abounded, immigrants struggled to get their new start, and women’s rights were nonexistent. In the midst of all this is a wonderful romance between Jem and an Italian immigrant reporter named Ray DeLuca. There are some humorous and delightfully romantic scenes between them, a few especially memorable. Most touching is their openness and honesty with each other, especially toward the conclusion.
“I can’t speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. I am
just a woman. But you…You can tell the world. You can use those
words of yours like a knife that cuts through everything that is
unjust and horrible and you can make it right.”
- Jem to Ray
This is a story where spiritual elements run beneath the surface, yet are cleverly woven throughout. To Merinda, “God was a mystery she didn’t particularly care to solve, and while Jem might be interested in seeing through a glass darkly, she preferred to grapple with facts.” I suspect we’ll see some spiritual awareness in Merinda as the series progresses. And then there’s the way the main characters apply godly principles by advocating for the less fortunate, those who need someone to give them voice.
This story brings one thought to mind, the same thought that is suggested by the title of this blog: the power of words used wisely or thoughtlessly, to build up or tear down. I’d like to end with these thoughts from Ray’s journal where he reflects on a visit to St. James shortly after coming to America because I think it captures the overall message of this story . . .
One afternoon the minister, Ethan Talbot, came and spoke to me. He told me that the door will never be locked for me. Then he offered to teach me to read and write English. And I promised, in that moment, I would do something with that gift. Someday.
I look forward to more adventures with Merinda, Jem, and a delightful supporting cast of characters. And be sure to check out Rachel’s Pinterest board for she has assembled some great historical pictures that will give an authentic feel for the times.
Recommended to all readers.
Rachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.
Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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