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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Under the Dragon’s Tail

Author: Maureen Jennings
Originally Published: 1998
Courtney’s Edition: 2005
Publisher: McClelland and Stewart

Under the Dragon's TailIn the second of Jenning’s Detective Murdoch books, a midwife and abortionist in late 19th century Toronto is found dead by her foster sons. It soon comes to light that many of her clients have come from high-class society, and Dolly (the midwife) had a habit of getting every little penny that she could from her clients, even years after they have had need of her services – sometimes in the form of blackmail. Acting detective Murdoch is on the case, trying to find out exactly who murdered Dolly, and one of her foster sons who soon turns up dead as well.

I’m still new to the mystery genre, and I don’t know if I would really get into the genre if it wasn’t for Murdoch. I haven’t enjoyed any other mystery book quite as much as the ones in this series, I have to say. I find it unpredictable and thoroughly readable. The setting is so much fun – Victorian Toronto! – and the characters, oh! the characters. Love love love them all! Especially Murdoch himself.

Oh, Murdoch, how much do I love you? I don’t even know where to begin. You ballroom dance! You race bicycles. You are oh-so-smart. You feel guilty about being attracted to one of your fellow boarders, and it is so adorable. You are a practicing Catholic in a Very Protestant Toronto, and must go through so many struggles because of it. I do love you, and I think every book will make my love for you grow. In fact, I haven’t loved any fictional character this much since Horatio Hornblower and Lieutenant Bush.

As mentioned, I love that Murdoch is a very devout practicing Catholic in a very Protestant Toronto – it gives a bit of an insight to the struggle it must have been at that point in time, as well as how hard it must be to be a part of a minority group in the present time. And you can see how his beliefs have an impact on his daily life – especially when it comes to a fellow boarder that he seems to have a bit of a crush on. He believes he could never be with her because she isn’t Catholic, but he still likes her anyway (and it’s so cute – especially the part in the epilogue where he’s got women he finds attractive on both sides of him and he’s rather flustered).

I especially loved the interaction between Murdoch and Annie Brogan, a young stage performer who gets involved in the case. She’s a lot more outgoing and revealing than the women Murdoch is used to. It is quite amusing to see Annie go from being wary of Murdoch to trying to embarrass him constantly, and I would have loved to see more of her.

The Bottom Line: Definitely loved this book. Devoured it. Would highly recommend it, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the others in this series.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 4:45 pm June 9, 2009.
Category: Mystery
Book Author(s):

  • Christina

    Under the Dragon’s Tail sound so interesting, I immediately requested it off of PaperBack Swap. I’m not a big mystery person, so I’m interested in seeing if I have as much luck with the series as you did.

  • Court

    Christina – I hope you do like it, it is quite a good book!! :)

  • Danielle

    Wow–I’ve not read any of these mysteries and your post makes me love Murdoch, too! :) Actually if you love Horatio Hornblower, then we have similar tastes, so I’m going to go and look for this author now!

  • Court

    Danielle – Oh, I hope you enjoy them! There’s also a television show and a mini series based on the books, if you want a taste of Murdoch before reading the books, though I don’t know how available they are in the USA.