From the cover flap of the book:
In each of her succeeding historical mysteries set in late nineteenth-century Toronto, Maureen Jennings has not only placed her readers vividly in the period and the place, but has also given the an involving story. Her books blend conventionally defined crime with the often egregious failures of the period’s social system. Finally, she has steadily fashioned and filled out the character of her protagonist, Acting Detective William Murdoch, until he joins the select group of fictional beings who become more real to the reader than most flesh-and-blood acquaintances. We have met a human being.
In Let Loose the Dogs, Murdoch’s job and his life combine tragically. He learns that his beloved sister, who long ago fled to a cloistered convent to evade their drunken and abusive father, is on her deathbed. Meanwhile, Harry Murdoch, the father whom Murdoch had long ago wiped out of his life, and who may have caused his mother’s death, has been convicted of murder. Harry calls on his estranged son to prove his innocence and to save his life.
In the midst of these family crises, Murdoch can at least rejoice that his struggling romance seems to have some promise.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve read one of Jennings’ Murdoch books. I had been hoping to buy them all, but they changed covers when I was halfway through reading them, so unless I want to go out and repurchase my collection, I’m planning on getting the rest of these from the library, just as I did with this one.
It took me a while to get back into the narration style of this book. I don’t read a lot of mysteries, so don’t know if it reads similar to other mysteries, but the narration certainly isn’t quite the same as the books I typically read. Not that it’s not enjoyable, but it was different to see read a chapter from one potential criminal, to reading about the actual mystery, to reading another chapter from another potential criminal, etc, and not always having some of those side stories ever resolved.
There were two characters introduced in this story that I really wish we had gotten to know a little bit more about – one was a girl (I’m not sure the age), and the other was a young man. The young man was dropped on his head as a child, and was prone to extreme bad tempers that he wouldn’t remember ever again. It would have been very interesting if we could have explored both of these characters more, as they both very much seemed to be suffering from mental illnesses. It definitely would have added a very interesting dynamic to the story to see that explored a little bit more, especially to see how people interacted with and felt about them.
Murdoch was charming as always, and it was very awesome to see him get more involved in a romantic relationship… even if it was with a (gasp!) protestant when he is so very much with a Roman Catholic. Apparently that was taboo back then. It was also wonderful to see the different side of Murdoch, when he was seeing his father. Oh, the rage! The rage and drama and angst!
The fictional world that Jennings has created is wonderful. I love reading about places in Victorian Toronto and imagining how they would be different from what it’s like today. It’s pretty awesome to know the places that a story is set in, and to only be separated from it by a century. Love it.
The actual mystery that was going on in this story was pretty entertaining, and definitely helped to drive the character development. I half expected who the murderer turned out to be, but that’s not really why I was reading the book.
The Bottom Line
Overall, I enjoyed the book and will continue reading the series. Definitely recommended to mystery or Victorian stories.