Except the Dying

Except the Dying

by Maureen Jennings


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780771043314
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication date: 05/04/2010
Series: Murdoch Mysteries , #1
Pages: 360
Sales rank: 237,818
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

MAUREEN JENNINGS's first novel in the Detective Murdoch series, Except the Dying, was published to rave reviews and shortlisted for both the Arthur Ellis and the Anthony first novel awards. The influential Drood Review picked Poor Tom Is Cold as one of its favourite mysteries of 2001. Let Loose the Dogs was shortlisted for the 2004 Anthony Award for best historical mystery. Night's Child was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award, the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award, the Barry Award, and the Macavity Historical Mystery Award. And A Journeyman to Grief was nominated for the Arthur Ellis Award. Three of the Detective Murdoch novels have been adapted for television, and a Granada International television series, The Murdoch Mysteries, based on the characters from the novels, is entering its third season on CityTV and UKTV.

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Chapter One


The wind cut to the bone and Alice Black pulled her shawl tight about her head and throat. The hot gin was a fire in her stomach but no defence against the cold of the winter night. She grumbled to herself, trying to expose as little of her face as she could. She'd expected to do some business at the John O'Neil but none of the piss-makers wanted to pay for a bit of dock tonight. She wiped the back of her hand across her dripping nose. She hoped Ettie had fared better, else it was potato-peel soup for the next few days.

It was getting late. Although the hotel officially closed at the legal Saturday time of seven o'clock, there was a back room where the regulars could go to top off, and for a cut of the dash, the proprietor, James McCay, usually allowed her and Ettie to stay on.

Alice edged closer to the houses. She was afeard to go past the churchyard where the bodies of the Irish immigrants were laid out in their eternity boxes. Even though the epidemic had happened almost fifty years earlier, for sure ghosts lingered in the area. Not so the cholera. She always held her nose as she scurried by. On this stretch of Queen Street the shops were interspersed with vacant buildings and the boarded-up windows were blinded eyes. The gaslights were few and far between and what with that and huddling into her shawl, she didn't see the young woman walking in front of her until they almost collided.

"Mind where you're goin'," snapped Alice. She heard a muttered "Pardon" as the other one moved out of the way. She had a thick muffler wrapped around her face, but Alice had an impression of youth, and she wondered wherethe girl was going by herself at this time of night. A country piece, by the look of that hat and valise.

Alice glanced over her shoulder. The girl was hovering on the sidewalk. She looked lost, and for a moment Alice considered stopping to offer help. But sod it, it was too cold. A gust of wind blew her skirts up about her knees and she struggled to hold them down. At that moment she heard the jingle of harness as a carriage came around the corner heading east onto Queen Street, going a good clip considering the state of the road. The iron-hard ruts had a light covering of snow and they were slippery and dangerous to the horses.

"Get out of the way, you bloody bint," yelled the driver. Alice jumped back onto the sidewalk just in time. She lost her balance on the snowbank and fell backwards, landing on her tailbone. For a moment she remained sprawled on the hard ground, groaning, then angrily snatched up a handful of snow and threw it in the direction of the carriage. The wind tossed it back in her face. Sodding toady. She shook her fist and suddenly the driver pulled his horse up sharp, wheeled around and headed back in her direction. She shrank back, prepared for recriminations, but the carriage went right past her and halted beside the girl. The door opened and a gloved hand reached our. After a moment s hesitation, the young woman accepted the help and climbed in. In the flickering yellow light of the gas lamp, Alice saw that the carriage was a smart burgundy colour with brass fittings, the high-stepping horse light-coloured, but the blinds at the windows were pulled down tight and she couldn't see the occupant.

The driver cracked his whip, wheeled the horse around, and they set off again at a brisk canter back along Queen Street.

Alice got to her feet, rubbing at her rump. She brushed the snow off her skirt, rewrapped her shawl and started to walk. Her stomach was cramping badly and she needed to get home soon. She should've known better than to trust those snaggy sausages of McCay's. If there was a morsel of real pork in there at all she'd be surprised. More like rotten horsemeat, by what it was doing to her stomach.

She was going by the Dominion Brewery now, the pleasurable part of her route. In spite of the increasing urgency of her indigestion, she paused in front of the entrance. The smell of hops hung heavy and sweet on the night air. She sniffed hungrily but the cold made her cough. Sod it. She headed up Sumach Street. Her toes had gone numb. Even though she'd stuffed newspaper into her boots, they were so split they were useless.

"Lucky for that little tit, whoever she is. Gettin' a ride to some warm place. Why'd it never happen to Alice ?"

Constable Second-class Oliver Wicken was looking forward to the end of his shift, when he could warm his feet at the station woodstove. His thick serge uniform and cape kept his body warm enough but his feet were frozen and a chilblain itched painfully on his right heel. He stopped for a moment and stamped to restore his circulation. Since the early hours of the morning a steady snow, soft and pure, had been covering the grey detritus of the week. Now with dawn approaching the wind had got up again, burning his face, and tiny icicles had formed along the edge of his fine blond moustache.

At this hour the streets were empty. He hadn't encountered another living soul during his entire beat except for a bread man in his dray rumbling down River Street. Privately, young Wicken always hoped for a little excitement he could relate to his sweetheart. She was a romantic girl and was always after him to tell her his adventures. Like he'd told her, the graveyard shift in the winter wasn't going to be lively.

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Except the Dying 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
moose_tracker More than 1 year ago
I started watching the Murdock Mysteries on TV, so thought I would try the books. Normally the two though are so different that you end up being disappointed with the second medium you see it in if you have come to love the first medium. There are a few differences, but close enough to be comfortable with the charactors as old friends.. Best yet, the attention to the details of the past history that I enjoyed in the TV show, is definiately (if not more so) in the books.. I am now reading the second book, as disappointed that there are only 7 so I will end up finishing them and wanting for more.
stridel More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of Victoria Thompson, Caleb Carr, and now Maureen Jennings. I became interested in reading her work after watching Murdock Mysteries on Netflix. Now I look forward ro reading more by her.
thesmellofbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much in most ways. A very satisfying historical novel, such that I am left even a week later with a sense of having been somewhere real that is not now. You may or may not consider this next a spoiler:In the end, I wasn't satisfied with the resolution of the mystery. This was annoying but didn't cancel my enjoyment of the book. I would read other books by Jennings.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wish I could judge this book without prejudice, but the fact is, I kept comparing it in my mind to the TV show, "Murdoch Mysteries." I loved the TV Murdoch. He is an amateur scientist, very well read and in quite a bit of conflict with his religious expectations and the life he experiences. The book detective didn't move me at all and had none of these characteristics. In fact, the other characters around him were far more interesting. This is an historical mystery, which takes place in Toronto in the late 1800s. There was quite a bit of slang which I didn't understand and threw me off pace in my reading. Also, much of the story was quite sordid and I don't enjoy that. The author would be in the middle of a scene, then abruptly end it with no resolution and switch to a different part of the story, leaving us to piece together the rest of the scene from vague hints later. All that being said, I did like the mystery. There was enough interest in the setting and characters to make me continue reading. I will try to read one more of her books to see if Murdoch develops at all.
kylenapoli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jennings gets an A+ in evoking an unrelentingly unappealing Victorian-era Toronto, sure to cure you of any romanticism about that era (should you have any). Otherwise, a standard mystery, an interesting lead, and a long list of other books in the series.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Late one February night, the frozen body of Therese Laporte is discovered in a Toronto lane. Police detective William Murdoch's investigations lead him to the household where the young woman had been in service. Everyone connected with the household has something to hide. Can Murdoch catch her murderer in time to prevent more deaths?William Murdoch seems to be a thorough investigator who explores every potential lead for clues. It was disappointing to me that the discovery of the culprit was due to circumstance rather than to Murdoch's skill or intellect. Also, the motive for the crime was never explained. I was left with a feeling that something important was missing from the story. I did like Murdoch's character very much, though, so I'll give the next book in the series a try and see if it suits me better.Victoria Thompson's Gaslight Mysteries and Anne Perry's William Monk and Thomas & Charlotte Pitt series are all set in approximately the same era. Except the Dying has a grittier feel than these, and its language is generally coarser. Even so, this series might appeal to both Thompson and Perry fans.
2silverspurs More than 1 year ago
I like a good mystery but this book is not my cup of tea. The language - and descriptions (could do without). Also the slang was foreign to me. Will not continue with the book I will archive the book. I will watch the series on tv to see how it goes because I do like the lead.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago