Except the Dying

Except the Dying

Book - 2012
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In the cold Toronto winter of 1895, the unclad body of a servant girl is found frozen in a deserted laneway. The young victim was pregnant when she died. Was her death an attempt to cover up a scandal in one of the city's influential families? Detective William Murdoch quickly finds out that more than one person connected with the girl's simple life has something to hide.

Publisher: Toronto, Ontario :, McClelland & Stewart,, 2012.
Edition: Trade pbk. edition
Copyright Date: ©1997
ISBN: 9780771043024
Characteristics: 343 pages ;,21 cm.


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sapl3 Apr 09, 2020


If you’re a fan of Murdoch Mysteries on CBC television and haven’t read any of the books that the series is based on, then do! I was delightfully surprised when I read this first book in the series. Of course there are differences between the book and the television series, but it’s easy to treat each as a separate entity.

In both the book and the series, Murdoch is a man of integrity and treats the people that he encounters in his investigations with dignity and kindness. It is 1895 and the unclothed body of a young servant girl is found in a laneway. She is found to have been greatly liked by the wealthy family that she worked for and its mistress mourns her deeply.

Murdoch’s investigation takes him from the wealthiest families to the downtrodden and poor, who sell their bodies for the few pennies that will buy them a crust of bread. He must sort through the many lies that he’s told in order to come to the truth of who killed this young woman.

Jennings paints a vivid picture of Toronto in the late 1800s with characters that come to life on the page.

Jan 21, 2020

For years, I have watched the Murdoch Mysteries on Monday nights on Canadian TV. I have always noted that the shows were based on books written by MAUREEN JENNINGS. I finally got off my couch and got book one in the series entitled EXCEPT THE DYING. I am very happy that I did.

The setting is 1895 Toronto Canada. The main “good guys” are Acting Detective William Murdoch, Constable Crabtree and Inspector Brackenreid of Station 4 of the Toronto Police. There are numerous “bad guys” including “Sailor Jack”; Dr. Cyril Rhodes; Owen Rhodes his son; Foy, the Rhodes’ butler and City Councilmember Shepcote.

Therese Laporte and Alice Black are the murder victims. The former was a house cleaner in the Rhodes’ household. The latter was a prostitute. Both are found outside in frigid weather and had lethal doses of drugs in their systems. Murdoch and his team follow leads and discard red herrings to eventually bring the murderers to justice.

This was a time when forensic science was extremely limited. Transportation and communication lacked the modern conveniences we all take for granted today – telephones, computers, motorized vehicles, etc.. There are no car chases but there are horse-drawn carriage rides.

The characters of Murdoch, Crabtree and Brackenreid are slightly altered from the way they are portrayed in the TV series. If you have not seen the TV series, you will not notice the difference. The author does an extremely good job of writing in the vernacular of the late 19th century so it feels like you are there.

Highly recommended for fans of period mysteries and different settings. There are more than six books in the series.


Jun 28, 2019

After falling in love with Maureen Jennings writing in the Tom Tyler series I was eager to check out this series. I was not disappointed at all. I loved this first book of the series. I found Murdoch recognizable as in a way similar to Tom Tyler in his views. Murdoch was easy to get to know as the case unfolds. A young girl is murdered, the gritty Toronto night life opens its doors, two friends are torn apart, and a murderer is on the hunt to cover their tracks. Follow Murdoch through the wintry Toronto streets to find the culprit.

Oct 27, 2015

I agree with Dangling Conversation in that Insp. Murdock seem naive in this 1st novel. I do not like to read him as being so vulnerable and jejune. People, esp. men, must have been much more inclined to believe whatever they were told by church/government/employer authorities and his blind belief in the moral teachings of Holy Mother Church makes Murdock appear to be nearly stupid. It's a good think he wises up in later writings.

A good read but Inspector Murdock is a bit naieve and moralisitc. His Catholicism sets him up to be bullied by his superiors. An OK read but I know Murdock matures in later novels and it is not inspiring to see him in a more vulnerable iteration.

AuntJane Feb 16, 2014

Read this for Book Group and thought it was great! Interesting detective and storyline - lots of historical atmosphere created by the varied settings in shops, men's clubs, stables, drab apartments, etc. Can't wait to read more of this detective!

Jun 17, 2010

Inspector Murdock is a detetive with the Toronto police in the 1880s. He lives a quiet life, renting two rooms in a boarding house, still in morning for the loss of his fiance two years before.

Then the body of a young woman is found naked in the snow one night. Murdock is thrust into an investigation of sexual assualt, prostitution, and the seedy underside of the monied classes of Victorian Toronto.

Author Maureen Jennings has created a very rich mystery, where we follow Murdock as he tries to figure out who killed the young serving girl. Victorian era Toronto proves to be an intersting back drop for the typical murder mystery. Without DNA, profilling, fingerprinting and other modern crimesolving tools, Murdock still manages to figure out what happened, using good old fashioned police work.

And execellent book to curl up with on a rainy day.

Dec 11, 2009

This series combines a solid police procedural style with authentic 1890s Toronto environment and situations.

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