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Vices of My Blood

by Maureen Jennings

Maureen Jennings’ new novel, Vices of My Blood, picks up where her previous William Murdoch mystery left off. Only two months have passed since the end of Night’s Child, when Murdoch’s lover, Enid Jones, left Victorian Toronto and moved back to Wales to be with her ailing father. Murdoch has received his expected promotion to detective and is settling into his new living arrangements.

The story begins with the Toronto police being warned about the imminent arrival of a group of “queer plungers” (small-time con artists) when they receive news of the murder of the Reverend Charles Howard. Murdoch takes the call and finds Howard in his office at Chalmers Presbyterian Church. He’s been kicked in the head and stabbed in the neck with a letter opener. His boots have been taken and it appears that his pocket watch has been stolen.

The simple explanation of a robbery gone terribly wrong is accepted by many, but there are enough inconsistencies to keep Murdoch investigating. The boots are eventually found on the feet of one of the queer plungers, and his story leads Murdoch to go undercover to live as a vagrant. Meanwhile, another poor family falls victim to the murderer as he tries to cover his tracks.

Jennings immerses her readers in the Toronto of the 1890s. The smells, sights, and sounds she describes ring as true as if she were recounting a trip she’d made there last week. She weaves a tight plot and once again does a fine job contrasting the lives of those in the church and others of “respectable” society with the many who have nothing more than the clothes upon their back. Poverty or wealth or station in life, however, have little to do with strength of character – as Murdoch discovers when he finally tracks down the reverend’s murderer.


Reviewer: Jeff George

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart


Price: $24.95

Page Count: 360 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 0-7710-7854-4

Released: April

Issue Date: 2006-5

Categories: Fiction: Novels