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Series Saturdays: Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries Blog Tour

Who is Myrtle Hardcastle?

Our Myrtle does not fit into the mold that English society believes is becoming of a little lady. She is precocious and asks a lot of questions. With an interest in both her late mother’s science background and her father’s legal background, Myrtle has what some feel is a morbid curiosity with death and murder. This passion for forensics however makes Myrtle one hell of a sleuth. The problem is that at 12 years old none of the adults in her life, save for her governess Miss Judson, bother to listen to her.


Book 1: Premeditated Myrtle

When her next-door neighbor, a wealthy spinster and eccentric breeder of rare flowers, dies under Mysterious Circumstances, Myrtle seizes her chance. With her unflappable governess, Miss Ada Judson, by her side, Myrtle takes it upon herself to prove Miss Wodehouse was murdered and find the killer, even if nobody else believes her — not even her father, the town prosecutor.

Book 2: How to Get Away With Myrtle

This second book in the series finds Myrtle Hardcastle and her beloved Miss Judson on a train ride along the English countryside. It’s supposed to be a relaxing holiday. Perhaps one that Myrtle was dreading because she would be under the watchful eye of her stern Aunt Helen. But not before long Myrtle finds herself thrust into another mystery. A priceless tiara is stolen and one of the passengers is murdered — with her Aunt Helen’s sewing shears! Our plucky young protagonist must race against time to prove her aunt is innocent. But can she get the local authorities to listen to her?


My Thoughts on the Series

I was excited to read these books because I grew up reading Nancy Drew. I was hoping that I could find a series featuring a strong female character that my daughter could be inspired by. Like Nancy Drew, Myrtle Hardcastle is quite the detective. But Myrtle has more obstacles to overcome. Her mother is deceased having succumbed to a disease. As the local prosecutor, her father’s job demands much of his time. Living in the late 19th century England she is expected to be a charming little lady honing her domestic skills. Because she is younger any pleas that she may have to discuss a case are often thwarted.

As I read the series I couldn’t help but be reminded of Harper Lee’s Scout. Both of these characters defied convention. Both have special relationships with their fathers where they know and love their daughter’s differences, even if at times their natures get them into trouble.

The Myrtle Hardcastle series is cleverly formatted. Myrtle is not just the narrator, but the writer of the story often taking time to address her dear readers personally. Throughout both books Bunce treats us to footnotes that serve as cute anecdotes and tidbits of trivia. Many of the chapters in this series also begin with blurbs from Myrtle’s books that sets the stage for that chapter. I feel that this format will make the Myrtle Hardcastle series more appealing to its target audience – middle grade readers. But I do feel that this cozy mystery series has something for adults too. Besides good characterization and an engaging style of writing each novel deals with issues of feminism and racial representation. The mysteries in and of themselves are craftily devised and have enough meat to sustain an adult’s attention.


Mom’s Verdict

I enjoyed the Myrtle Hardcastle series a lot but at 8 years old my daughter may not be quite ready for this series. I would say that 12 may be the ideal age to introduce her Myrtle Hardcastle. But I look forward to when that time comes and hope that my daughter is as excited to read about this plucky heroine’s adventures as I was. In the meantime she’ll have to settle on relishing eating the famous Stansberry pie from Premeditated Myrtle.


Meet the Author

From the Elizabeth Bunce’s website: “I am a fan of all things fantastical, mysterious, spooky, and old. I write historical fantasy, mysteries, and ghost stories for young readers, and discerning not-so-young readers. My books are inspired by real places and cultures of the past, often with otherworldly or magical elements.”

“I’m a native Midwesterner, living in the tall grass prairie near Kansas City with my husband and our feline supervisory staff. When I’m not writing, you’ll usually find me Making something—cosplay, needlework, historical costuming, quilting… but not cooking.”

From Goodreads: “Her first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, won the inaugural William C. Morris Award for a young adult debut novel and was named a Smithsonian Notable Book. Her high fantasy Thief Errant series includes the novels StarCrossed, A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best book for 2010, and Liar’s Moon, one of Kirkus Blog’s Favorite YA Novels of 2011. StarCrossed and A Curse Dark as Gold have appeared on Oprah’s Kid’s Reading List. Her novels have been named to the ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and she is a three-time Kansas Notable Book winner. An accomplished needlewoman and historical costumer, Elizabeth lives in the Midwest with her husband, her cats, and a boggart who steals books.”

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Series Saturday: Lucas Page

Who is Lucas Page?

Lucas Page is a retired FBI agent. During his tenure he survived a horrific blast that claimed his eye, an arm and a leg. He struggles with PTSD and suffers flashbacks from the incident. Understandably, he is a bit of a curmudgeon and does not warm up to people easily. Yet he has a heart of gold, which is evident by his opening up his heart and home to several adopted children. Having been a foster child himself family means everything to him. To say that Page has a brilliant mind would be an understatement. By day he works as an astrophysicist and university professor. By night he solves crimes no one else can.


Why Do We Like Him?

I just loved Page’s wry sense of humor. His dry wit kept me laughing even though instances where people had died in the book. His relationship with Whittaker was a special one. They seemed to understand what the other one was thinking without having to say anything.

Page is an overcomer. We are given enough details to know that he had a hard childhood but we see him giving back rather than dwelling on the past. He pushes through his flashbacks and his pain. He never makes excuses. Instead he searches for a means to work around his problems. Page has an uncanny, perhaps supernatural, ability to see patterns amidst chaos. His analytical mind can map out a space in seconds and quickly recreate crime scenes.

Book 1: City of Windows

During the worst blizzard in memory, an FBI agent in a moving SUV in New York City is killed by a nearly impossible sniper shot. Unable to pinpoint where the shot came from, as the storm rapidly wipes out evidence, the agent-in-charge Brett Kehoe turns to the one man who might be able to help them–former FBI agent Lucas Page.

Book 2: Under Pressure

On a beautiful October evening, New York City’s iconic Guggenheim Museum is closed for a tech company’s private gala. Until an explosion rocks the night, instantly killing 702 people, including every single attendee—yet the damage to the building itself was minimal.

An explosion of that precision was no accident and, in response, the FBI mobilizes its entire team — but the sheer number of victims strains their resources. Were all 702 victims in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was there only one target and 701 unlucky bystanders? With too many victims and no known motive, the FBI turns once again to Dr. Lucas Page.


My Thoughts on the Series

This series was brought to my attention by Joseph Bresnan from Minotaur books. I enjoyed both books in this series and would recommend them to fans of Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X series. I appreciated Pobi’s representation of a disabled character and how he showed readers his challenges but also allowed us to see his talents. Throughout the books there were several extremely clever plot twists and as a woman in STEM I liked how he incorporated the science and technology.


Meet the Author

I found Lucas Page to be such a curious character I really had to find out more about the man who created him. Pobi seems to be quite a recluse and likes to have a bit of mystery surrounding him:

From Pobi’s author page: “He lives in the country, but spends most of the summer and fall months at his cabin on a lost lake in the mountains. He does not have telephone, internet, or television at the cabin; if he needs to check email, he has to drive eight miles to a tiny town hall for the free wifi at the picnic table inhabited by a gang of octogenarian chain smokers. When the cold starts chewing on the trees, he heads to a place he has on the beach, where his nearest neighbor—a retired cop who shares the same first name—makes the best whiskey sour he has ever tasted.” 

He writes at a desk that once belonged to Roberto ‘God’s Banker’ Calvi, and has (or definitely doesn’t have) a small collection of shrunken human heads (known as tsantsas in anthropological and collector circles) that continually weird out his housekeeper. He owns too many fountain pens and is constantly making notes in old-school Mead marble composition books.”

From Goodreads: “ROBERT POBI has fished for great whites off Montauk, chased coyotes with a dune buggy in the Mojave, and spelunked caves in the former Yugoslavia. He is a renowned expert in English period furniture and makes a mean coq au vin.”