Under the Dragon's Tail (Murdoch Mysteries)
1 journaler for this copy...
It's from Jennings' series about a police detective in early 1900's Toronto, which was the inspiration for the truly delightful TV series called Murdoch Mysteries (aka "The Artful Detective" in the US).
I already knew that the TV series altered many aspects from the books, but it was still a bit jarring to discover that book-Crabtree is a hulking giant - and a secondary character - instead of the average-sized quirky charmer of the series. Murdoch himself felt fairly true to type in this book, which is early enough in the series that he has yet to meet Dr. Julia Ogden (though they do hold a brief telephone conversation re some autopsy results). He's shown as a bit of a dandy with an interest in a number of ladies, though he's still mourning a lost love - but despite the personal complications he has a keen eye for a case, and follows up on things carefully. (The TV series shades into steampunk at times, pulling in lots of period-accurate inventions and technology, and has Murdoch himself display considerable scientific interest and ability; this novel didn't go anywhere like that, though it did highlight the fact that telephones were very new and most private homes and many businesses had yet to install them.)
There was plenty of period detail here, including olfactory notes on the pong of sweat, hair-oil, perfume, illness, horse dung and refuse that pervades the city. Other hints as to the harshness of life are plentiful: nearly every character is either ill or recovering from illness, Murdoch included, with fatalities shown as all too common. And the central plot, which has to do with a midwife/baby-farmer/abortionist, reveals yet another layer of suffering...
The mystery itself was fairly straightforward, though the details of who did what to whom got a bit muddy; one perpetrator was emotionally unbalanced in the extreme, and became a tragic red herring by the end of the story, while others had various levels of culpability in the whole situation. There were a few hopeful notes here and there, but overall the novel was a lot darker than the TV series - though it, too, tries to do justice to the suffering caused by classism and sexism and poverty. I'm glad I read this, and might dip into other books in the series if I find them, but it differs too much from the TV show for me to consider it the same story.
[There's a TV Tropes page on the TV series, with references to the books as well.]
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*** Released for the 2017 Canada Days release challenge. ***
*** Released for the 2017 TV Series release challenge. ***