Vices of My Blood: Murdoch Mysteries by Maureen Jennings

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Vices of My Blood: Murdoch Mysteries by Maureen Jennings

Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: According to his parishioners, the Reverend Charles Howard was loved by everyone. Everyone, that is, except the person who murdered him. Was it a simple theft gone wrong, or revenge on the part of one of the vagrants he turned away from the workhouse? Neither theory quite fits the facts, and Murdoch finds himself in some very unpleasant situations as he explores the life of the charismatic cleric.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 414 Date: June 2012
Publisher: Titan
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780857689924

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William Murdoch has at last been promoted to full detective, and continues to solve cases with his usual mix of dogged determination and flair. Toronto at the end of the nineteenth century is marked by a huge divide between the rich and the poor, and the fact that many of the latter group are utterly destitute leads to all manner of crimes, great and small.

Indeed, as the book opens Murdoch's police station has just been advised that a family of queer plungers, or minor con artists, are in the area, and it is not long before evidence of their activities turns up. This particular trio play out a number of scams, where the boy appears to fall under a cart, or the woman seems to have her purse snatched, while the third member of the team encourages sympathetic passers-by to contribute to a collection for the unfortunate victim. As one of them explains later to Murdoch, no one really suffers: the townsfolk only donate their spare change, and they are well repaid by the delicious feeling of pride in their own generosity that they experience.

A more legitimate recourse for those who have absolutely nothing is the workhouse, here called the House of Industry. The Reverend Howard is one of the Visitors who decide whether or not a person qualifies for its charity, and many a family is forced to go hungry by him because one of its members drinks or prostitutes themselves. As Howard's boots and watch have been taken from his body, it is assumed such a vagrant is responsible, and Murdoch finds himself going under cover to find out more information. The sounds and smells of the House of Industry and the indignities meted out to those who apply for a night there are vividly described.

Attentive readers may have a good idea who the murderer might be before the end of the book, but the pleasure in a story like this lies more in the evocative detail and in the personal relationships between the main characters than in a simple hunt for the killer. Indeed, the gruesome scenes in the workhouse are not the only ones to be avoided just after a heavy meal: readers are treated—if that is the word—to a highly colourful description of a post-mortem examination. Dr Julia Ogden, long awaited by fans of the TV series, at last puts in an appearance, but once again the books and the TV programmes differ in all manner of ways. Here Dr Ogden is a slightly older and decidedly less pretty woman, who is determined, precise and sharp-tongued. Murdoch's love interest is a young female teacher who rooms in the same house as he does, wears Rational Dress and frequently gets into trouble with the school authorities for her modern views. Their relationship develops rapidly during the course of the book (much assisted by the crying of two teething babies!) and comes to a surprising conclusion.

Ms Jennings' books are well-written, full of immaculate research and deep insights into the Victorian world of her protagonist. They inform and entertain in equal parts, and are highly recommended as a thumping good read!

There are several books in the series about Detective Murdoch, with more promised. Bookbag particularly enjoyed Except the Dying about the murder of a maidservant, and Let Loose the Dogs, in which we learn about the detective's family.

Buy Vices of My Blood: Murdoch Mysteries by Maureen Jennings at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Vices of My Blood: Murdoch Mysteries by Maureen Jennings at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Vices of My Blood: Murdoch Mysteries by Maureen Jennings at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Vices of My Blood: Murdoch Mysteries by Maureen Jennings at Amazon.com.


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