— H. M. Hardcastle, Principles of Detection: A Manual for the Amateur and Professional Investigator, 1893
Oof, Premediated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce had all the makings of an exciting and fun girl mystery story…but it seriously suffered from the ‘not like other girls’ syndrome. And honestly, I’m kind of torn on how I feel about it. I think this could have been a really fun book that I would have loved to add to my repertoire of mystery books for young girls. But, at the same time, I’m just quite disappointed in it?
It’s Nothing New
This story, overall, really doesn’t add much to the young girl mystery solver type novels. I feel like it kind of filled a template complete with misdirection fueled by the main character’s personal dislikes, a kidnapping, and even a betrayal. In its own way, this book just seemed to be checking all the boxes that you’ve come to expect from these kinds of books. Myrtle Hardcastle has a lawyer father and is thoroughly invested in solving criminal mysteries.
She’s your typical not like other girls trope and spends the vast majority of the novel being annoying and intrusive. And, naturally, she does an excellent job of solving the mystery with the occasional assistance of the adults (and animals) around her. And, frankly, I have to say…these adults are far to indulgent for this girl.
Alright, so I didn’t hate the book.
I just don’t think there’s anything about it that really stands out. At all. It reads just like nearly any other mystery novel for young girls. And, sure, if this is your favorite genre then Myrtle will probably exist as the not bad character that might make your top ten, but is more likely a top twenty depending on how many you read.
At best, the book is mediocre. And that’s if I completely ignore the fact that they pushed the not like other girls trope incredibly hard. It’s made even worse by the fact that Myrtle doesn’t really seem to have any friends at all. The other girls are awful to her when she’s pushed to hang out with them instead of turning to pursuits she actually cares for. And there’s only two other kids, leaving her to work through her deductions with the help of the adults.
And I just…felt thoroughly let down by this.
I just…why didn’t this girl have any friends?
Solving the Case
Okay, so the end of the novel…sucked. It was thoroughly predictable, much to my dismay. And the thing is, the only piece of the book that I thought was unique was the way the novel began each chapter with a quote from H. M. Hardcastle’s book.
I had a brief moment in which I mistook this book for Myrtle’s herself, imagining that they were excerpts from a book she was writing presently. Turns out it was from a book written by an ancestor of hers, which just made the whole thing rather disappointing. But, at least it was cute?
So, I listened to an audiobook version of this book. Therefore, I’ll concede that the narration was actually pretty impressive. I really enjoyed the voice they chose for Myrtle, even if the character herself was rather annoying at times. She’s British, aligning with Myrtle herself. And she did an excellent job bringing literally every character to life.
Aside from the narration, though, it was generally hard to care about the characters. I wasn’t really intrigued by the mystery, either. The red herrings were plentiful and all of them unlikely enough that it wasn’t really all too difficult to figure out the real culprit. Granted, I’m an adult so I’ll admit that this is likely less obvious to younger readers.
But, there you have it, really. The book is just…average.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.