Today’s post is about PREMEDITATED MYRTLE and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MYRTLE by Elizabeth C. Bunce. Thank you so much to the publisher Algonquin Young Readers for providing me with Advanced Reader Copies in exchange for an honest review. This post is in partnership with the blog tour currently happening for Myrtle Hardcastle in celebration of the double-release of these two books.
Myrtle Hardcastle is a twelve year-old girl with a keen sense of observation, a love of the truth, and a hunger for solving mysteries. Myrtle’s father also happens to be the town Prosecutor. 19th-century London provides for a rich background to Elizabeth C. Bunce’s Middle Grade Historical Fiction series. Full of rich language, continuous humor, and feminist themes, the first two books in the Myrtle Hardcastle series set the rest of the series up for sure-fire success.
In Premeditated Myrtle, we meet Myrtle just as she begins to think that her next door neighbor has died. Turns out, she’s right! After alerting the police and snooping around, Myrtle realizes that perhaps her neighbor was actually murdered. Up against a whole host of adults who don’t believe her fanciful notions, Myrtle gets to work trying to bring justice. In How To Get Away With Myrtle, our fierce protagonist is taking a holiday via train with her perfectly poised governess Miss Judson and exceptionally crabby Aunt Helena. When one of the passengers on the train is murdered, Myrtle realizes she must avenge the poor woman, on account that the local authorities do not seem to want to take the murder of a woman seriously.
WHAT I LIKED
One of my favorite aspects of both books is the relationship between Myrtle and Miss Judson. We learn in the first book that Myrtle’s mother, a blossoming scientist, passed away when Myrtle was seven years old. Shortly after the death of her mother, Arthur Hardcastle (Myrtle’s father) brings on Miss Judson to help care for Myrtle and raise her to be a proper young lady. It is clear from the beginning that Miss Judson fills a simultaneous sisterly and motherly role to Myrtle. When she needs to be, Miss Judson is firm, stoic, and prompting Myrtle to be a studious and brilliant girl, much like a mother would. There are other, moments, however, where see the humorous, sarcastic, and equally curious side of Miss Judson, especially when she encourages Myrtle’s interest in mystery and crime-solving from afar, much like a sister would. As Miss Judson is Myrtle’s governess, we see Miss Judson for a lot of both books, and their banter and complex relationship is expertly crafted.
I appreciated how Bunce was able to weave in feminist themes into a historical fiction book set in late 19th-century London. Because Myrtle is so very interested in mysteries, murder, and science, and is not at all interested in becoming “a proper lady,” she is often looked at as peculiar, by both men and women alike. Myrtle acknowledges this, and sometimes she struggles with how different she can be, but it is not a pity party with Myrtle Hardcastle. Her love of solving puzzles and her deep passion for helping people outweigh her trepidations about the type of young lady she is. Furthermore, I enjoyed that the “I’m not like other girls” trope was not present in this series, even though it definitely had the opportunity to be. What makes this so interesting is that Myrtle meets and comes into contact with so many other girls and women who, at first, might see her as weird and irrepressible. As Myrtle gets to know them, however, she quickly realizes that these girls and women who may appear to be Ladies of Quality, are not all the same or have the same interests. This is evident in Miss Judson, especially, but also in Myrtle’s friend Caroline and even her Aunt Helena. Because Bunce weaves in so many interesting, complex, and varying female characters, she is able to circumvent the “not like other girls” trope and build a world where being a girl means many different things. I enjoyed seeing Myrtle realize this in both books, but especially in How To Get Away with Myrtle, where Myrtle meets Mrs. Bloom, a female Insurance Investigator who is blunt, perceptive, and wholly independent.
The character of Myrtle is also one of my favorite aspects of his series. Encouraged by both her father and Miss Judson, Myrtle is a strong-willed young girl who is whip smart and persistent. She talks to the reader like she’s recording the events in a log or perhaps just taking us along for the journey, and it’s this style that allowed for so many humorous moments to come through. There were so many moments where Myrtle addresses the reader that reminded me of The Office (in a good way!). A lesser spotlighted quality is Myrtle’s deep compassion and empathy for other people, which is where is insistent drive burgeons from. Myrtle is always thinking about how she can best serve the deceased or disenfranchised.
The Myrtle Hardcastle series is definitely for fans of Middle Grade, books set in 19th-century London, Nancy Drew, the young kid takes down the bad guys trope, and strong mother (figure)-daughter relationships.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the series and gave both books 4/5 stars. I will be purchasing final copies of both Premeditated Myrtle and How To Get Away with Murder in anticipation for the third book! I definitely see this being a series I will continue to enjoy and recommend to others.
Thank you so much reading! Make sure you are subscribed to my YouTube channel BookinItWithAhtiya for additional bookish content, such as reviews, reading vlogs, and wrap-ups. You can also find me on Instagram (@BookinItWithAhtiya) and Twitter (@BooksWithAhtiya)! See ya next time!