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Except the Dying: 03/08/17

Except the Dying

Our last trip to Victoria was a snowy one. The weather plus the Christmas holidays gives the city a reason to shut down and stick in doors. It was on one of those snuggle inside days, that we first started watching Murdoch Mysteries (2008-). We're now nearly finished with season six.

Knowing that the series was inspired by a series of mysteries by Maureen Jennings, I decided to go back to the source and read the books. The first in the series is Except the Dying. As it turns out, this book was done as a TV movie in 2004 with a different cast. I haven't seen it and I'm not sure that I want to.

In translating a story from one medium to another, just as in transcribing music from one instrument to another — changes need to be made. Now as the television series is borne from the experience of making three television movies. Problems that arose from the initial process have been worked out and as new writers are brought in, thus taking the imagined world of station house four from Jenning's mind into a collective process.

It's also obvious from the ebook editions that the television series are selling the books. It's rather silly to have two characters who don't exist in this book on the cover selling the book.

So to the mystery at hand — the naked body of a young woman, a teenager really — is found frozen to death in a back alleyway. The hunt for witnesses take Murdoch and Crabtree through all sorts of unsavory locations. Now if this were TV Murdoch, he would do his best to keep a straight face and would dive into his interviews with aplomb. Book Murdoch, though Catholic, is not as naively hopeful, nor as resolute in his desire to stay calm, collected, and optimistic. The change in Murdoch's temperament is credit to his portrayer — Yannick Bisson.

Murdoch in Except the Dying is hardened by life. His fiancée did dye, though not of consumption. He does live with Mrs. Kitchen. It's Mr. Kitchen who is afflicted with T.B. He rents the entire upstairs in part because he feels sorry for the Kitchens but also because he's a bit of a misanthrope.

Likewise, Brackenreid is a harsher, nastier person. He's more in his cups and thus Mrs. Brackenreid is compeletely justified for her participation in the Temperance League (is the book version does).

So the mystery itself. There's a dead girl found stripped of her clothes. While the winter chill helped in her demise it wasn't what killed her. She was murdered. How she got from her place of employment to the flop house is a big part of the mystery.

It's not the most brilliant of mysteries but still entertaining. The historical setting, Toronto in 1895, is a big selling point. Many of the streets and locations mentioned are still around and can be looked up on Google Maps.

The second book in the series is Under the Dragon's Tail. As there are only seven books in the entire series, I plan to read the remainder.

Four stars

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