Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: Except the Dying (Murdoch Mystery) by Maureen Jennings

Except the Dying by Maureen Jennings
A Detective Murdoch Mystery #1

My Rating

❤ Official Synopsis ❤

In the cold Toronto winter of 1895, the unclad body of a servant girl is found frozen in a deserted laneway. The young victim was pregnant when she died. Was her death an attempt to cover up a scandal in one of the city's influential families? Detective William Murdoch quickly finds out that more than one person connected with the girl's simple life has something to hide.

❤ My Thoughts ❤

It's a bit of a shock going into this book thinking it'll be all charming and quaint like Canada's television series starring Yannick Bisson. In reality, there is nothing charming or quaint about this book series. It's gritty, it's hard, it possesses a great deal of language and sexual innuendo, and there is not a single character who is wholly likeable or lovable, not even Detective William Murdoch although he's probably more realistic as a flawed human being. Still, I love the Murdoch of the tv series who is so socially awkward and endearing while still being a brilliant detective. Much to love there. And don't get me started on his senior officer, Inspector Thomas Brackenreid. The man is boorishly entertaining in the tv series and an absolute bloody terror and bigot in the book series. Thank goodness they gave him that overhaul in the television program. And where, I'd like to know, is Dr. Ogden, the female pathologist that Murdoch has a crush on?! I did like the elderly couple who Murdoch lives with as their boarder. They're gentle and compassionate . . . except towards Methodists. Apparently there's some bad blood between Methodists and Catholics, of which Murdoch happens to be one.

And speaking of religion, because I'm going to do so, it was fascinating to read a book where the lead character is Catholic. It grows tiresome after awhile to read protestant fiction with a severely negative bent against Catholics. So I enjoyed Murdoch being Catholic (just like he is in the tv series). I know very little about Catholicism on the whole, but don't have a negative view of Catholics so the harsh bigotry against Murdoch and other Catholics within the book surprised me. I don't know why it did, though, since I know protestants and Catholics have a long, unhealthy hatred of one another.

So, obviously, this is not a Christian novel. There is unpleasant talk of murder, of sex, of an aroused dog, of prostitutes, and there are plenty of nasty slang terms flying around for various parts of the anatomy. There's even mention of *gasp* homosexuality. I don't usually like that much "stuff" in the books that I read and I do think Ms. Jennings went overboard quite a bit, which is why I'm only rating the book 3 stars. Negative content should not be added to a novel simply for the sake of shock value, whether it's secular fiction or not.

That said, I still enjoyed Except the Dying . . . immensely. I finished it in only a few days because I couldn't put it down. In some ways it reminded me of the originality of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael books that I love so dearly. I've already begun reading book 2 in the series. And I've done a fair job separating the books from the tv series, which took a bit of doing. But I'm growing to like Ms. Jennings' Murdoch even though I'll never love him as much as I do the Murdoch in the tv series.Ah well, life isn't always perfect.

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