Along with A Visit from St. Nicholas, there is no more famous Christmas story than Charles Dickens′ A Christmas Carol. Since it debuted in 1843 it’s been reprinted hundreds of times, made into more than 100 films, and its ghostly lesson trope has been incorporated into dozens of TV series. For England, A Christmas Carol meant the revival of universal celebration of the holiday of Christmas that would spread across the planet, as well as cementing traditions that continue 179 Christmases later. On this second day of Christmas I want to share an idea for your own frigid winter read in the tradition of a very Victorian holiday season in old England: borg writer Elizabeth C. Bunce’s novel, Cold-Blooded Myrtle, the third book in her Edgar Award-winning mystery series, which Publishers Weekly noted as “the best thing to happen to youth mysteries since Trixie Belden.” Finalist this year for the Edgar Award, the Agatha Award, the Anthony Award, and the Silver Falchion Award, it was also reviewed in the Wall Street Journal: “Younger [Sherlock] Holmes fans (and older ones too) should be charmed by Bunce’s Cold-Blooded Myrtle, the latest entry in her series featuring 12-year-old amateur sleuth Myrtle Hardcastle. In 1893, Myrtle receives a double Christmastime shock: the death, in The Final Problem, of her fictional idol Holmes, and the apparent murder of the proprietor of her town’s mercantile store. Tidings of discomfort, indeed.” It’s chock full of Myrtle’s notations on Christmas traditions, including some little-known oddities from Christmases past.
After a year that saw her helping the constabulary discover the murderer of her neighbor and surviving a botched vacation at seaside where she foiled more than one criminal’s efforts, young Myrtle hopes to have an ordinary Christmas. Her current pursuit is simply finding an appropriate present for her unflappable governess–and frequent partner in solving crime–Miss Ada Judson. But when does anything ever go as planned at Christmas?
Snuggle up with a blanket and cocoa and your next good book this winter. Hunt for clues alongside Myrtle, Miss Judson, and their opinionated cat and faithful sidekick, Peony. Elizabeth has been writing her Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series for a few years now. Prompted by a quick mis-utterance of “premeditated murder” and a chatty cat that showed up one night in the rain, a character and an idea took hold and before we knew it Elizabeth created and sold the first five books in the series. The first book, Premeditated Myrtle, an Indie Next Pick named to Amazon’s Top 20 Children’s Books of 2020, arrived in bookstores last year along with the second installment, How to Get Away with Myrtle, a #1 Amazon New Release. Not only did Premeditated Myrtle win the 2022 Edgar Award (the Mystery Writers of America award recognizing the mystery, crime, suspense, and intrigue genres, in its 75th year), it was named an Honor Book by the 106-year-old Society for Midland Authors, it was named to the Library of Congress’s annual Great Reads from Great Places list, and it was nominated for the Agatha Award and Anthony Award (it’s available in German and Russian, too!).
Premeditated Myrtle is a blend of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Secret Garden, as Myrtle tries to enlist the aid of her father, the town prosecutor, to help solve the case after she points to the wrong man. In the second novel, How to Get Away with Myrtle, Myrtle, her curious cat Peony, and her intrepid governess Miss Judson embark on a seaside vacation on an excursion train. But the vacation is cut short when a rare tiara is stolen and someone is murdered before the train arrives at the station. It’s an Agatha Christie style mystery that finds Myrtle on the case as she’s stuck in a vacation town that is nothing like it was advertised, and everyone, including her aunt, is a suspect.
In Cold-Blooded Myrtle, winter arrives and as Myrtle prepares for a hopefully uneventful traditional Dickensian Christmas, notable locals are found dead in ways that seem to mimic the murders of historical figures. Soon Myrtle discovers her late mother was close to the victims, and Myrtle hopes secrets from her past and a famous visiting archaeologist may lead to the truth. A local newspaper reporter is digging into the case of a secret society and a missing student at nearby Schofield College, but is she getting too close, and why does she know so much? And why is the reporter so chummy with family friend and legal clerk Mr. Blakeney? What is the secret behind the long-closed bell tower? Cold-Blooded Myrtle brings together The Watcher in the Woods, Phantom of the Opera, and The Goonies, as Myrtle, Judson, and Peony investigate an early Cold Case File.
Industry reviewer Kirkus provided the novel a starred review, and The Buffalo (NY) News said, “Along with an intricate mystery, Cold-Blooded Myrtle features memorable characters, unhinged villains, clues written in Greek, threats written in Latin, a museum party celebrating a Saturnalia Chalice unearthed by Leighton and students in Cornwall, a series of steam tunnels under the village and murders staged in miniature ahead of time in a store Christmas display. Narrated in Myrtle’s smart, irreverent voice and peppered with amusing footnotes, the novel builds suspense as the body count rises right up to the dramatic finale.” Netflix Life and Fansided included the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series on its list of “7 Books to Read if You Like Enola Holmes on Netflix.”
Also available in a German edition, Cold-Blooded-Myrtle is the third Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery novel. This year saw the release of the fourth volume, In Myrtle Peril, an epic tale of a doomed sea voyage, the mysterious fate of the crew, and Myrtle and her father trying to solve a murder while he is in hospital for a tonsillectomy. Coming next year is the fifth volume, Myrtle, Means, and Opportunity.
For your next snowed-in, winter read, follow Myrtle’s sleuthing adventure over the holidays in Cold-Blooded Myrtle, available in bookstores everywhere and here at Amazon, also available in eBook and audiobook, performed by British actress Bethan Rose Young. Artwork for the series was created by Brett Helquist.
C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg