‘Tis the season to curl up with a good mystery. If finding a good mystery is your biggest case right now, I have some leads for you in this week’s Brainstorm. I’ve been stumbling upon more and more young lady sleuths I feel like who would make for grand friends if they only lived in the same time period. They are all British, all under-appreciated geniuses, and all suffer from “morbid curiosity” that just might be their undoing but that also makes them fabulous sleuths to follow around. And they are all tweens who have the mettle to solve murder mysteries (which are few and far between for tween sleuths). So let me introduce you to Aggie, Flavia, and Myrtle. Click on the book title to see my full review including any content notes/trigger warnings.
The Body under the Piano (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen, #1) by Marthe Jocelyn, ill. by Isabelle Follath
Aggie Morton is a most curious young lady. As in, she is curious about rather unusual things. Like just what happens after a body dies, where would one procure a particular poison, and who murdered Mrs Irma Eversham (whom Aggie just happened to be the first to see under the piano in the Mermaid Room on Saturday). The police are looking at dance instructor and sister-in-law of the deceased, Miss Marianne Eversham, but Aggie just knows Miss Marianne would never have done such a thing. With the help of her new acquaintance, Hector Perot, a refugee child from Belgium, Aggie is gathering clues to free Miss Marianne and discover who the real murderer could be.
In case you didn't guess from the title, characters, or subject matter, this is historical fiction mystery loosely based on Agatha Christie's childhood. I love how the author worked in so many nods to Agatha Christie's novels, and of course, Hector Perot reads just like a child version of Hercule Poirot. The second book in this series is a Christmas mystery I liked even better than this one, and I’m eagerly awaiting book 3 which is on order.
Historical Fiction Fans, British Golden Age Mystery Fans, Agatha Christie Fans, Refugee Character Fans, Biographical Fiction Fans, Upper Middle Grade Readers (though YA & Adult readers who have read lots of Christie will get a lot out of this series too)
Premeditated Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries, #1) by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Myrtle Hardcastle has trouble with being a Young Woman of Quality thanks to her morbid fascinations. While making Observations of the neighborhood. Myrtle realizes there is something very wrong at the Redgraves estate next door. No one is following their usual routine, and that is unheard of. It is so startling Myrtle makes a little call to the police, and sure enough they show up to discover the old lady next door, Miss Wodehouse is quite dead. Of course, Myrtle must go make her own Observations, and when her evidence fails to match up with that of the local police's ruling of death by heart attack, she must help them see the error of their ways. For Myrtle is quite convinced that someone did Miss Wodehouse in. But who? And why were her prize lilies destroyed? And where is her cat? With the help of her trusty governess, Miss Judson, Myrtle is determined to see justice served.
Myrtle stands out from the rest of this trio of ladies in that she has a trusty adult by her side to offer advice, guidance, and correction when she needs it. Miss Judson is not a hindrance to the fun at all, either. She is just as determined to get to the root of the mystery.
Historical Fiction Fans, Forensics Fans, British Golden Age Mystery Fans, Middle Grade Readers (though many YA and adult readers will enjoy Myrtle too)
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1) by Alan Bradley
Flavia de Luce goes outside early one morning only to find a stranger breathing his last words in their cucumbers. Normal 11 year old girls would have screamed and fled the scene, but Flavia is 100% intrigued and when her father is arrested for the crime, is soon trying to untangle the knots surrounding the stranger, a rare stamp, her father's old schoolmaster, and the dead man in the garden.
Flavia is one plucky, precocious girl with just the right touch of crazy misfit. In her case, the misfit comes in the form of not really connecting with her older sisters and of having a better understanding of Chemistry than most college graduates; the crazy comes in a penchant for poisons. (She’s also the only one in this trio marketed to the adult reader crowd instead of middle grade.) This series is set in 1950s England, an era that often gets ignored in mystery settings.
1950s Historical Fiction Fans, Complicated Families Fans, Adult Readers (though approachable to YA)