Tag Archive: Law and Order


It’s not every day you get to be part of a project that is exciting and fun.  My wife, borg contributor, and author Elizabeth C. Bunce has been writing her Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series for a few years now.  Prompted by a quick utterance of “premeditated murder” and a cat that showed up one night in the rain, a character and an idea took hold and before we knew it she had created and sold the first four books in a new series of mystery novels.  But as Tom Petty said, “the waiting is the hardest part.”  Tomorrow, after the obligatory pandemic delay, not only does the first book, Premeditated Myrtle, arrive in bookstores, but the second installment, How to Get Away with Myrtle, too (available in hardcover, eBook, and audiobook).  How often do you begin a new series and can hardly wait that next year for the second installment?  Solved! 

It’s been exciting to watch Elizabeth build the story from the ground up, featuring 12-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle, an irrepressible and tenacious heroine living in England in 1893 as the sciences of criminology and forensics are taking off.  Her father is a local prosecutor, and with her governess Miss Judson she forms a sort of dynamic duo, solving crimes as she faces the pressures of Victorian society and growing up with other kids whose interests are less… morbid.  And the team is only complete with Peony, a truly opinionated neighbor cat, who joins her on her sleuthing.

“Bunce crafts a truly captivating murder mystery, throwing in a delicious mix of twists, red herrings, and relatives excluded from the family fortune…the book will make readers yearn for more of Myrtle’s (mis)adventures.”  —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 

Premeditated Myrtle is currently an Amazon Best of the Month Editor’s Pick and #1 Amazon New Release, and last month How to Get Away with Myrtle was a #1 Amazon New Release (and is currently a #3 New Release).  Last week 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.”  

“In the tradition of heroines like Flavia de Luce and Harriet the Spy, Myrtle is a fine example of the Victorian scientific female—smart, inquisitive and fearless,” says Rhys Bowen, the New York Times bestselling author of the Her Royal Spyness series. “Written with a terrific mixture of humor and suspense, Premeditated Myrtle is a perfect read for any budding detective.”

Elizabeth’s first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, won the American Library Association’s 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. 

Here is more industry praise for Premeditated Myrtle and How to Get Away with Myrtle, coming to online and brick and mortar bookstores next week in the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series:

PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY

Channeling classic Victorian whodunits, Bunce’s detective series opener features a quirky, winning narrator and a lively secondary cast… A generous, well-wrought relationship between governess and charge complements tightly plotted twists… Myrtle is as clever as she is determined, and her expertise—seen in evidence collection and courtroom antics—is certain to delight genre stalwarts and mystery novices alike. 

BOOKLIST STARRED REVIEW

There is something afoot at Redgraves… Myrtle’s above-average intellect, passions for justice and science (an endearing blend of her parents’ professions), fondness for detective stories, and predilection for asking questions make her the perfect person to investigate what is obviously a crime most foul. Written very much in the style of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries, Myrtle’s spirited investigation—aided by her governess, who champions the Socratic method of learning—is a joyful thing to behold. Well-crafted red herrings throw Myrtle and readers alike for a loop or two…Set in Victorian England, this mystery gleefully overturns sexist norms and celebrates independent women of intellect, with Myrtle Hardcastle leading the charge.

BOOKPAGE STARRED REVIEW

Premeditated Myrtle is a book young readers will love and adults may well sneak out of backpacks and off of nightstands for their own enjoyment… Myrtle has an investigator’s tool kit and access to her prosecutor father’s law library; she is curious to a fault, brave and persistent. Bunce keeps secondary characters grounded in reality as well—even a cat has an interesting character arc—and the quest to determine who killed Miss Wodehouse is as keenly plotted as the best adult cozy. Here’s hoping for more adventures with this delightful, heroic protagonist. 

BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Bunce crafts a truly captivating murder mystery, throwing in a delicious mix of twists, red herrings, and relatives excluded from the family fortune. Miss Judson and Myrtle work as a power duo, with Myrtle offering up big ideas and Judson giving those ideas practical applications. Myrtle is an entertaining protagonist, not afraid to get her hands dirty, sneak into mansions after dark to find a clue, or call out sexism of men toward her scientific interests or the racism toward her governess… the book will make readers yearn for more of Myrtle’s (mis)adventures. 

HORN BOOK MAGAZINE 

This clever and lively Victorian English village murder mystery starring precocious twelve-year-old fledgling detective Myrtle Hardcastle has all the trappings: households with cooks and governesses and groundskeepers; church luncheons and afternoon teas; mysterious newcomers; missing wills. Also, poisoned elderly ladies… Bunce does an excellent job of making Myrtle the lead actor but gives her a strong set of (mostly female) supporters… Myrtle’s narration is Arch with a capital A (“Dear Reader, kindly permit me to pause to properly introduce one of the Key Players in this narrative”), but it suits the novel’s setting and subgenre to a T.

KIRKUS REVIEWS 

A saucy, likable heroine shines in a mystery marked by clever, unexpected twists. 

BOOKLIST

Bunce fully utilizes the story’s classic mystery settings (the train, a grand hotel full of unusual guests, and a small town of memorable characters) as she spiritedly chucks red herrings at readers and Myrtle alike. Humor and wit make the narrative sparkle, and, happily, Myrtle is as irrepressible as ever.

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

Readers who enjoyed Premeditated Myrtle will rejoice in this second installment featuring the plucky protagonist, her beautiful and multitalented governess Miss Judson, Peony the cat, and a whole new cast of strong female characters. References to Scotland Yard and investigative techniques will delight young Sherlock Holmes aficionados. The advanced vocabulary will send even the most sesquipedalian readers scurrying to the dictionary… VERDICT This deeply plotted sequel is an additional purchase for collections serving the most precocious readers who long for a fast-paced mystery where women shine.

Elizabeth will be appearing at several virtual events in the coming weeks beginning with a virtual book launch at Watermark Books, Tuesday, October 6, 2020.

Congratulations to Elizabeth on her book launch!

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

After months of vigorous publicity, USA Network’s latest buddy cop dramedy Common Law debuted Friday night, with mixed results.  USA has long been teasing viewers with hints at the show’s premise: two quibbling homicide detectives attend couple’s counseling to work out their differences.  Starring Michael Ealy (Barbershop, Underworld: Awakening) and Warren Cole (24) and featuring veteran character actor Jack McGee as their lieutenant and Sonya Walger (Lost, The Sarah Connor Chronicles) as the therapist, Common Law is an uneven mix of action, comedy, and police drama.  With the USA pedigree behind it, it has a long way to go to catch up to network winners like White Collar and Burn Notice.

Let’s start with the premise.  It’s good!  It’s funny, it’s got a great hook, and the framework of the rocky relationship is something that can easily span multiple seasons of a series (unlike, say, Prison Break).  We first meet our heroes in the middle of their first group therapy session, filling out personality questionnaires to prove how well the “partners” know each other.  The jokes initially hinge on the double entendres, but do manage to rise above the obvious, delivering a few funny moments and revealing some depth to both leads.  Therapist Walger is competent, although the pilot didn’t give her much opportunity to shine in the role; we’ll be watching to see if she becomes a memorable character in her own right like the late Stanley Kamel of Monk.

As a cop drama, the pilot was lackluster.  Again, remember twenty years of Law & Order, seven seasons of The Closer, and the short but brilliant Life.  This is a genre with savvy viewers who expect standout scripts and performances.  The murder was forgettable (literally; it’s been less than twenty-four hours, and I’m having trouble remembering it), the writing just average, and the guest performances all lacked spark.  They’ll need to raise the mystery and casting to the level of the premise for the show to keep my interest.

Strong performances by leads Travis (Ealy) and Wes (Kole) helped the pilot rise above its draggy plot and uninspired dialogue.  Both were nicely developed, with complex backstories.  Travis was raised in foster care, and Wes is a disillusioned former lawyer (although I would have liked to see those somewhat stereotypical histories reversed).  Travis is a freewheeling ladies’ man, Wes an uptight perfectionist, and the two have landed themselves in hot water when Wes drew his gun on Travis over an argument.  Enter Captain Sutton (McGee), who believes the same couple’s therapy that saved his marriage will do wonders for his best detectives.  Ealy and Kole have great chemistry (or, at the moment, an entertaining lack thereof) and set the tone for the show.  But McGee somehow feels out of step with the rest, adding an element of farce to an otherwise fairly dark humor.  There was something off there that didn’t quite work for me.

However, some standout moments give this viewer hope for the series.  A couple of really great action sequences featured clever twists on familiar police drama scenes (a convenience store holdup, the foot pursuit of a suspect).  The foot pursuit, in particular, combined great filming/editing and some truly awe-inspiring synchronized stunt work by Wes and Travis.  If Common Law features more of that in coming episodes, I will have a good reason to keep tuning in.