Under the Dragon's Tail

Under the Dragon's Tail

by Maureen Jennings


$16.67 $16.95 Save 2% Current price is $16.67, Original price is $16.95. You Save 2%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, October 17


Desperate women, rich and poor, come to her in need of help - and discretion. Dolly Merishaw is a midwife and an abortionist in Victorian Toronto, but although she keeps quiet about her clients' condition, her contempt and greed leaves them resentful and angry. So it comes as no surprise when this malicious woman is murdered. What is a shock, though, is that a week later a young boy is found dead in Dolly's squalid kitchen. Now, Detective Murdoch isn't sure if he's hunting one murderer - or two.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780771095979
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication date: 09/18/2012
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 273,536
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.84(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.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Sunshine was streaming through the kitchen window, making the flies sluggish as they crawled across the pine table. Irritably, Dolly Merishaw swatted a few of them, brushing the carcasses onto the floor. Even that slight effort caused a stabbing pain behind her eyes. She tried to wet her lips but her tongue was thick as cloth. She picked up the beer jug from the sideboard, but there were only dregs left and a bluebottle had drowned itself in the bottom.

She knew the two boys were out scavenging along the Don River and that Lily was delivering laundry to her customers on Gerrard Street, but she resented the fact they ­weren’t here to look after her, to bring her a pot of tea the way she liked.

“Useless slags,” she said out loud.

Not that she ever uttered a word of appreciation when her daughter waited on her. In Dolly’s opinion, Lily had forfeited the right to thanks.

She pushed up the window sash and stuck her head out. The air was warm and soft, the sun caressing. Early July was the best time of the summer, before the August heat roasted the city like a cut of beef.

Even for Dolly, the sight of the trees dappling the street was appealing, and she leaned her arms on the windowsill for a moment. Two women bicyclists rode by, both of them sitting straight and rigid at the high handle­bars. One was wearing knickerbockers and leggings, and Dolly noticed a passerby turn and glare. Many people were offended by these new bicycling outfits, Rational Dress, as they were called, but Dolly approved. She was happy to see women upset male tempers.

She retreated back to the kitchen, wondering if she was well enough to go out. She decided she was. She fancied some calf’s liver for her breakfast, and Cosgrove’s, the butcher, ­wasn’t too far. And she could go to the Dominion Brewery on Queen Street. They sold stale beer at a cheap price.

Her felt slippers loose on her feet, she shuffled off to the parlour to get dressed. Ever since they had moved to Toronto, Dolly had been essentially living in this one room, as she was usually too full to climb the stairs to her bedroom. She slept on a Turkish couch, and Lily brought her meals on a tray. It was not uncommon for Dolly to throw the food at her daughter if she was displeased and Lily screamed back, raw, wordless cries. In the kitchen the boys listened, ears pricked, wary as fox kits.

It took Dolly almost an hour to make the journey, but when she returned to the house, neither her daughter nor her foster sons had returned.

“Where is the slut?”

She poured herself some of the flat, bitter ale and took a long swallow. Her parched throat was eased at once. She put the package of meat on the table and opened it up, smoothing out the newspaper that the butcher had used to wrap the liver. Her glance was idle at first, but suddenly she paused, bent closer, and squinted at a photograph on the inside page.

“My, my, look who it ­isn’t.”

A smear of blood partly obscured the picture but the caption confirmed her. She plopped the liver on the table and carefully tore the piece out of the newspaper. She read the notice again. What luck. Good for her, but bad for the other one. Clutching the strip of paper, she trotted off to the parlour, moving with more vigour than she had in a long time.

The room was hot and buzzed with flies feeding off the remains of last night’s stew. The curtains were still closed but she ­didn’t open them. She could see well enough and she wanted privacy. Beneath the window was her prized desk. She went over to it, pulling out a leather thong that hung around her neck. The key was never anywhere else, and it was warm and greasy from nestling between her breasts. She unlocked the desk, rolled back the top, and sat down. There ­wasn’t much inside. A blotter, a tarnished silver inkwell and steel pen, a jar of her special herbs, the tin where she kept her money. Usually she enjoyed counting the coins and the bills, but today she shoved the tin aside and pulled open the drawer at the back of the desk. Reverently, she took out a vellum autograph album. One of her clients had left it behind years ago, and Dolly had appropriated it for use as her record book. The cover was soft and supple, royal blue with the word Friends embossed in gold letters. The paper was thick and creamy. She placed the piece of newspaper on the blotter, wiped her fingers on her skirt, and opened the album.

It ­didn’t take her long to find the entry she wanted. In the eight years that had passed since then, her business had lessened considerably, and over the last three years there were no birth entries at all. Carefully, she tore out one of the unused pages and placed it on the blotter. She picked up the pen. The nib was crusty with dried ink but usable, and the inkwell ­hadn’t dried out. She stroked, “Dear —” Bugger! There was a blob of ink on the paper. Perhaps she’d better practise first.

“I’m sure you remember the occasion of our first meeting.”

The only way a person would forget that was if they was dead and she knew that ­wasn’t the case.

“I have had some family troubles which has forced me into changing my name for reasons of privacy as I am sure you of all people can understand.”

Even writing that down made Dolly flush with anger. She’d been ruined through no fault of her own.

“I did as good by you as I could. Times are hard, my business has fallen off. A small gratuity would be kindly received. Or else . . .”

Table of Contents

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Under the Dragon's Tail 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Toronto police detective, William Murdoch, is called to investigate the sudden death of a woman with a shady past. Her two young foster sons claim to have seen and heard nothing during the night she died. Do they know more than they're revealing? The dead woman's deaf and mute daughter flees as soon as she spots the police. Was it from guilt or fear? Murdoch's investigation leads him to the wife of a prominent judge. What is her connection to the dead woman, and to a dance hall singer of questionable reputation?This is the second book in a series set in Victorian Toronto. I liked the detective well enough in the first book to try another one in the series, but I don't think I'll be continuing with the series. Jennings overdoes it with the crude language, not-so-subtle innuendos, and descriptions of squalor. Murdoch's investigation didn't seem to be going anywhere, and the sudden conclusion of the case didn't seem to have much to do with Murdoch's work. I'm not sure who the target audience is for this series. A lot of cozy readers will be put off by the crude language and stomach-turning descriptions of corpses, surroundings, and personal hygiene of various characters. It seems to be below average as a police procedural, too. Not recommended.
ThePolyBlog More than 1 year ago
PLOT OR PREMISE: Murdoch gets to investigate the death of Dolly Merishaw, a drunkard, a midwife, and an abortionist. She lived with two boys that she treated horribly, as well as a young woman who is also a little unbalanced. It doesn't take much for Murdoch to realize there was blackmail involved, the question being of who? . WHAT I LIKED: Murdoch's investigation is relatively straightforward, but the fun part is seeing him trying to figure out the morals of dating and ballroom dancing when he still grieves his fiancee's death. He's also training for a bicycle race. It's a good introduction of some supporting characters too. . WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The view of the young woman being unbalanced is far too simplistic and poorly portrayed. . BOTTOM-LINE: A good addition to the series, but not the best . DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow her on social media.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago