Murdoch Mysteries: A Journeyman to Grief, by Maureen Jennings
On her honeymoon by Niagara Falls on a fine summer’s day in July 1858 a young girl was kidnapped. Soon after she was transported south into the Confederacy and sold into slavery. Nasty place, the 1858’s.
April 1896 sees William Murdoch and Dr Julia Ogden attending a lecture on fear at the Toronto Medical school. Dr Ogden is considerably more fascinated by Professor Broske’s talk and demonstration than is Detective Murdoch. The live demonstration of separating the first fully conscious frog’s head from its body, with the aid of a sturdy pair of scissors, would have been enough for William. The next four were nearly too much. The rudimentary lie-detector test on two boys from the local orphanage wasn’t great either. Julia was smitten with the good Professor; William was not. The arrival of Crabtree summoning Murdoch to a murder scene was, as Sergeant Seymour had expected, most welcome.
It’s quite obvious, to everyone except Murdoch at least, that the cab proprietor was nastily killed by his dark stablehand. All the cabmen had motives, as did many local tradesmen and perhaps some local bookies. But the dark stablehand had argued vociferously with him that same day and had both the means and the opportunity for the killing. Besides, he was black.
As as if having a murder to solve wasn’t enough Murdoch has also to deal with the mysterious disappearance of Inspector Brackenreid, a difficult domestic issue with Constable Crabtree and the moral dilemma posed by his relationship with Amy. His guilty avoidance of the church and his vicar, all in the line of his police duty of course, introduces yet another issue for him to manage.
Jennings writings do not make me think of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, they’re not that kind of mystery. Instead they remind me of Dick Frances in the way that she brings light to a new trade or industry in every novel. In this case we see a little of the occupations and ways of life possible for the coloured community in the post civil-war US and in nineteenth century Canada as well as a window into the livery business.
This one is the best Murdoch yet.