August 1, 2022

Middle-Grade Mystery Recommendations


Middle-Grade Mystery Recommendations

If you're looking for fun and engaging middle-grade mysteries, look no further than the following two series. Both are now well-established and popular with young readers and feature vivid characters,  historical fiction settings, and young and capable sleuths puzzling together page-turning whodunits.

The Myrtle Hardcastle Series
by Elizabeth C. Bunce

(order the entire series here)

Set in early twentieth-century Edwardian England, Myrtle Hardcastle is a smart and curious twelve-year-old set on piecing together clues to solve local mysteries. Having lost her mother several years ago to cancer, Myrtle lives with her father, the town prosecutor, and her governess, Ada Judson. With Miss Judson at her side, Myrtle can't help but obsess over how to use science and the law to bring criminals to justice. My favorite character is her lovable cat, Peony, who seems just as curious as she is. Bunce includes numerous witty footnotes and chapter epigraphs that add a unique style to the narrative voice. Her penchant for capitalizing key terms like Mysterious Circumstances adds to Myrtle's voice and her likability as a character. The series has won numerous awards and the newest installment will be out this fall. I've enjoyed every installment thus far and will continue to keep an eye out for each new mystery in this lovable series.

Premeditated Myrtle (#1) (purchase here)

In the introduction to the series, readers meet the lovable cast of characters and get to know the village of Swinburne, England in which Myrtle live. When her wealthy neighbor dies, Myrtle and Miss Judson can't help but be curious about the strange series of events connected to her death and the likelihood of a murderer on the loose.

How to Get Away with Myrtle (#2) (purchase here)

In the hopes of sending her to a more proper and suitable setting for a growing girl recently tangled in a murder investigation, Myrtle's father sends her on holiday with her prim Aunt Helena. On board the train are an odd cast of characters, but all are intrigued by the beautiful Northern Lights tiara on display on its way to its new resort home. When the tiara disappears and a body is discovered, Myrtle's vacation turns into an investigation of who among them is a murderer and jewel thief.

Cold-Blooded Myrtle (#3) (purchase here)

Back at home in Swinburne, the Christmas season has begun and the village is celebrating the anniversary of the local college. During the reveal of a local shop display, the store merchant is found poisoned and his holiday display has been turned into a crime scene, pointing the finger to the past unsolved mysterious disappearance of a local college student. Myrtle and Miss Judson are intrigued, but when they learn Myrtle's mother was not only friends with the missing woman but was also involved in a secret society, they set out to uncover the truth at all costs.

In Myrtle Peril (#4) (purchase here)

Set to be published this fall, the fourth installment in the series focuses on the case of a missing heiress who was lost at sea. When Myrtle's father becomes involved in the case and is tasked with finding the true identity of a woman claiming that the money is hers, events become dangerous and he winds up in the hospital. In order to save her father, it's Myrtle's duty to find out who is putting their lives at risk.

The Aggie Morton Mystery Queen Series
by Marthe Jocelyn, illustrated by Isabelle Follath

(order the entire series here)

Set at the turn of the century, Marthe Jocelyn's series pays tribute to the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie, in this fun fictionalized interpretation of her childhood. Like Christie, Aggie Morton lives with her mother and older sister, their father having died years prior. Her mother is overwhelmed with grief, her sister is newly married and beginning life with her husband, and Aggie feels unsettled and different from the other young girls with whom she associates. When she meets a young boy named Hector (a tribute to Christie's famed detective, Hercule Poirot) who has been sent to England and is similarly missing his own family in Belgium, and the two bond over their love of methodical detection and solving crimes. Their friendship is charming, clever, witty, and I fell in love with this cast of characters, including Aggie's friendship with a journalist-in-disguise who's always on the hunt for the latest bit of crime news. Illustrator Isabelle Follath provides helpful family trees and renderings of the cast of characters in each book's front pages that help readers envision the curious persons under suspicion in each story. The settings are lovely, the crimes and detection propel you through the pages, and I was thrilled to see that another adventure will be published this fall.

The Body Under the Piano (#1) (purchase here)

Unwillingly participating in a dance recital for young girls, Aggie is shocked when a body is found in the dance studio. First on the scene, Aggie spots clues that the police and investigators don't seem to notice. When she meets and befriends Hector, they set out to learn why someone would want to kill an old woman before her seemingly innocent dance instructor is sentenced for murder.

Peril at Owl Park (#2) (purchase here)

Aggie and her family visit her older sister Marjorie, now Lady Greyson of Owl Park, to celebrate the Christmas season. As Aggie and Hector wander the large grounds and mansion, they and the other guests are entertained by a visiting theater group. When one of the performers is found dead, the entire household is under investigation. Soon a servant takes a spill down the stairs and lies unconscious unable to identify his attacker and a member of the party goes missing. Sneaking through secret passageways and eavesdropping on the suspects and the investigators, it's up to Aggie and Hector to find the attacker before they strike again.

The Dead Man in the Garden (#3) (purchase here)

On a trip to the seaside so her mother can benefit from the restoring waters and care of a local health spa, Aggie and Hercule get to know the other holiday vacationers and learn of a recent unsolved murder that took place at the Wellspring Hotel. They soon learn spa staff might be involved and Aggie fears for her mother's safety. When Aggie and Hercule are attacked, they fight back to save the town from danger as another victim is found.

The Seaside Corpse (#4) (purchase here)

Later this fall, Jocelyn's fourth installment in the series will take place at a seaside camp that features the work of local paleontologists, a tribute to Agatha Christie's own interest and involvement in the search for fossils in the Middle East. Aggie and Hector have a grand time learning this new science, but things turn upside-down when a corpse washes ashore and everyone begins pointing the finger at who might be responsible. The search for fossils turns into a hunt for a murderer.

I really admire what both Elizabeth C. Bunce and Marthe Jocelyn are creating in these middle-grade mystery series. If you're a fan of middle-grade fiction or if you have a young reader who enjoys a good whodunit plot, I highly recommend every book in these collections.

Have you read Myrtle Hardcastle or Aggie Morton? If so, let me know in the comments below or share your own recommendations for middle-grade mysteries.

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