The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to MurderThe Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan
Series: Herringford and Watts Mysteries #1
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Published by Harvest House Publishers on March 01, 2016
Pages: 224

 

About The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder (from the back cover):

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.

I’ve been reading less historical fiction this year, but I just couldn’t resist The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder. I’m not sure what appealed to me most—the awesome title, the pretty cover, the not-so-typical setting (finally, a book not set in the United States!), or just the idea of two single women attempting to solve murders in 1910. The summary reminded me a lot of The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester, and that kind of closed the deal for me. I had to read it. Just not immediately, as I have a very active toddler who makes it difficult to find time to read. Still, a belated review is better than none, right? And this book was definitely worth waiting for.

The actual murder may not have been the most interesting part of the book for me. I think I was more intrigued by the character of Ray DeLuca.

The actual murder may not have been the most interesting part of the book for me. I think I was more intrigued by the character of Ray DeLuca, the reporter Jem runs into at the start of the novel. Not so much as a romantic interest (although I can see the appeal) but as an Irish immigrant trying to make a place for himself in the field of journalism while also sticking to his conviction to expose the truth, even if it upsets those who pull the political strings. His commitment to his sister was equally admirable. Honestly, Ray’s dilemma—stop exposing political corruption or lose his job—is very likely still relevant to modern day journalists. The world needs more Rays!

It wasn’t just the immigrant culture that intrigued me in The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder, but the entire setting of 1910 Toronto. From the note at the end of the novel, it’s clear that Rachel McMillan fabricated a lot of the political issues she presented, but it still seemed like a fascinating city and time period, especially for young women like Jem and Merinda. The World Wars would soon open up new freedoms for women, but they aren’t quite there yet, and older generations have very different expectations for how young ladies should behave. I wouldn’t like to trade places with Jem or Merinda but I did enjoy reading about their attempts to subvert societal norms, and I was impressed with their bravery in cross-dressing. Christian Historical Fiction needs more heroines like these young ladies!

I wouldn’t like to trade places with Jem or Merinda but I did enjoy reading about their attempts to subvert societal norms, and I was impressed with their bravery in cross-dressing

I didn’t guess who was behind the murders as quickly as I sometimes do with mystery novels, mostly because I was a) distracted by a toddler and b) more focused on the character development than the actual mystery. So if you’re not big on solving crimes but enjoy stereotype-defying heroines in the early twentieth century, I’d encourage you to still give this novel a shot. Jem is a very likable heroine, and while I did sometimes wish she stood up for herself more—particularly when Merinda pushed her further into a relationship that made her uncomfortable—her flaws made her all the more real. I look forward to seeing her grow more confident in the sequel, and I hope we also get more insight into Merinda’s character. She intrigued me, but I never felt like I truly got inside her head, so at times she felt like a bit of a caricature. She was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but maybe not entirely authentic since I didn’t know how she’d come to be so eccentric and determined to push aside all societal conventions and expectations. The bottom line: Merinda is great, but I wanted more of her!

The bottom line: Merinda is great, but I wanted more of her!

While I didn’t completely love The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder, I can’t think of any major flaws with it either. It could have been longer (it comes in at a pretty short 224 pages), and it could have had more Merinda, but otherwise I really enjoyed it. Rachel McMillan did a great job of developing the characters and the setting, and I’m eager to see what Jem and Merinda are up to in the next instalment in the series. For such a short book, the story was fantastically engaging and just downright fun, and I’d encourage historical and mystery fans alike to give it a shot.

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