Book: Except the Dying

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Except the Dying: A Detective Murdoch Mystery

Author: Maureen Jennings
Publisher: St Martins Pr

As the unforgiving cold swirled around the girl’s unclad body, the bleakness of malice reflected in her lifeless eyes.

There was something more sinister than the frigid Canadian weather responsible for Theresa Laporte’s death, and Detective William Murdoch was going to uncover it all. The girl had opium in her system and an unborn child in her belly—with evidence suggesting both may have been forced upon her unwillingly.

Retracing the frightened girl’s steps takes Murdoch through the high and low streets of Victorian Toronto, bringing him from a den of doxies to the well-appointed parlors of the city’s most influential families. Everyone has secrets lurking in the shadows—and Murdoch is caught between his own conscience and pressure from above to solve the murder while shielding the city’s elite.


Turn-of-the-century Toronto makes an evocative setting for murder in Except the Dying, a skillful first novel that is interesting both for its historical accuracy and its fully realized characters. The plot concerns the murder of a young housemaid, discovered naked in a snowy lane, and the cast of suspects spans the social strata. Yet it is William Murdoch, the detective in charge of the case, who breathes life into what might otherwise have been a conventional murder mystery. As he pursues his quest for justice, Murdoch also mourns the death of his fiancée; his manner of doing both reveals a compassionate, principled man—one whose fictional endeavors (readers hope) have only just begun.

Barnes and Noble

The related murders of a pregnant maid and a prostitute in the icy winter of 1895 Toronto are the memorable elements of Maureen Jennings’s Except the Dying. Acting Detective William Murdoch is assigned to the case, which involves a prominent Toronto family. Despite some rough edges in this first mystery novel, Jennings provides an interesting look into this Canadian city’s police force and levels of society and a touching relationship between Murdoch and his elderly landlords. —Elizabeth Foxwell

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