Rachel McMillan has captured 1910 Toronto in her new mystery THE BACHELOR GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER. Single women who defy tradition and their parent's wishes to find a mate, and instead pursue a job, or perhaps a passion for crime solving, are called bachelor girls. Such streaks of independence and defiance against society's norms were so feared that historic Toronto had "women's courts" and arrests were made for "incorrigibility" according to the author's notes. To create that feeling, McMillan adds a fictional Morality Squad, a vigilante type group of men sent out at night to find any women breaking the codes of feminine behavior. Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts, two ladies in their twenties, intent on being the female versions of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, don disguises of trousers and large shirts when they first attempt to help police officer (and friend) Jasper Forth solve the murder of an immigrant girl. Their every action could catch the attention of the Morality Squad. When Jasper is pulled off the investigation after another girl is found murdered, he is told that it is because he let Merinda near the body. After the formal investigation stops altogether, Merinda is sure something is fishy and actively begins to investigate on her own, with Jem's help.
I loved that although it appears that Mirenda is the "brains" of the duo, much of the story centers on Jem. When masquerading in her oversized pants, she literally bumps into Ray DeLuca, a reporter for a Toronto rag, who is as ambitious as the two women. Soon Jem's interest in the Italian immigrant is more than business, but she keeps her feelings hidden from both Mirenda and Ray. And when Mirenda wants Jem to keep company with a reporter from another paper to help their investigation, Jem complies. Rachel McMillan has chosen to tell this mystery with a creative blend of humor, seriousness, and unique style. Each chapter begins with a quote from either a guide to solving mysteries or a book on bachelor girlhood, each quote setting a tone for Jem and Mirenda's story.
Footnotes are almost never used in fiction, but McMillan has added them for points of clarification a that would not be possible with her narration style. Although footnotes can be annoying and slow down the reader, these tiny messages add a layer of wit and insight.
Mirenda and Jem are not new characters for McMillan, although this is her first novel. The sleuthing pair appear in a collection of short stories, and lucky for readers now shine in this full length story, whose ending certainly leaves the impression that Jem and Merinda will be sleuthing again. I received a copy of this title from LITFUSE for my honest review.