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Except the Dying (Detective Murdoch, #1)
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Except the Dying (Detective Murdoch #1)

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,399 Ratings  ·  229 Reviews
In the cold Toronto winter of 1895, the unclad body of a servant girl is found frozen in a deserted laneway. Detective William Murdoch quickly finds out that more than one person connected with the girl’s simple life has something to hide.
Paperback, 360 pages
Published May 4th 2010 by McClelland & Stewart (first published 1997)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,970)
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I honestly admit, I'm a bit confused by this book. On the one hand, I really like it, but on the other, I am quite annoyed with it. Let me break it down into what worked and what didn't. Warning, here there be spoilers!

What worked:
The attention to detail. This book is slow, building on the minutiae of daily life. As each day goes by, you learn more of the aspects of Victorian Canadian daily interactions. I liked this. There wasn't any sudden hook to force the characters into impossible reactive
Feb 14, 2016 newt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Join Murdoch as he begins a case, attempting to find the cold blooded murderer of an innocent teenage girl... Twist in and out through the turns and flips as the story unfolds and mirror Murdoch as he figures out just who had done the heinous crime.

This is of course, the predecessor to the television series (which I happen to be a massive fan of!), but if you are a fan of the TV series I can safely say that you will most likely enjoy this too - but you must be aware that book Murdoch is slightl
Sep 04, 2012 Ruth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in a series of seven, which are collectively known as the Murdoch Mysteries, all of which feature a Canadian Police Detective named William Murdoch, who solves crimes in the late 1800s, in Toronto. Three of the novels were adapted into television movies, starring Peter Outerbridge as the title character, and a five season (so far) television show, with Yannick Bisson in the title role, featuring the characters from the books, but with all new storylines, has proved very su ...more
Jun 18, 2014 Evamaria rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
The Murdoch Mysteries remain one of my favorite feel-good shows - the characters are awesome, the murders always interesting, and the science is fun. I've read critiques that some people object to Murdoch (and even more so, Julia) being so progressive, but wasn't this the age of suffragettes (New Zealand granted women the vote in 1893) and other social upheavals in the wake of the rapid changes in society and technology? In my season 1-3 DVD box there were also the 3 original tv movies with Pete ...more
Mar 23, 2013 Holly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a fan of the TV show for the past few years I was thrilled to learn that the show was based on a book series and had to see how the two stacked up against each other.

Allowing the book to stand on its own it was a well done mystery. Going through it I thought I had figured out who had committed the murder and was constantly changing this answer up until the end. The story itself had me genuinely interested and it took no time at all to have this story read.

Having the show in my head made readi
A young house maid has been found dead in an alleyway, it is up to Detective William Murdoch and the Toronto constabulary to solve this Victorian era murder.

As a devotee of the CBC series, Murdoch Mysteries, I was overjoyed when I discovered it had been based on a series of books. So the next time I put in an order for books I was not hesitant to pick up the first novel in the series of 7. Whilst I have read many reviews critical of the novels, I myself found myself rather enjoying this mystery.
Aug 20, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Maureen Jennings. The world that she created in Victorian Toronto was just wonderful, and her characters, particularly her lower class ones, were so colorful and well written. The world and the people inhabiting it were gritty and rough around the edges. Even the people in the upper class were less than classy. I really enjoy the Murdoch Mysteries TV series, but honestly, it doesn't hold a candle to this book. The characters in the book are gritter and
Feb 05, 2015 Gwen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I wonder how many people have read this series without seeing the TV show first?

Once you get over that the books are nothing at all like the series, I actually rather enjoyed this. Murdoch has much more of a bite and is more like a real person than the archetype of a perfect detective. He gets crabby, he (lightly) swears, he dislikes people--characteristics you don't really see on the show.

The mystery didn't make a whole lot of sense, and I still have questions about just how Murdoch solved the
This book is so much grittier than CityTv's tv series. Almost every page mentions some noxious smell of a hundred twenty-five years ago, and Murdoch seems more diligent and less exceptional than on tv. Personally, I find him even more likable.

This is not the Toronto of "Ontario the Good." The city is full of starving children, desperate diseased prostitutes, alcoholism, and open vicious prejudice. Murdoch, while no saint himself, tries to navigate the hungry city to find his man. My one complai
Katherine Becvar
A nice gentle mystery, reminiscent of Poirot. Lots of great historical detail, particularly in the slang.
It almost feels trite to compare the book to the series, but it's sort of inevitable, so I'll get it over quickly. There are several differences, sadly most of the differences caused me to like it less than I could have. I'd probably say that Crabtree wasn't nearly as vibrant and hilarious as he is in the show, and that was huge letdown. (Although, thank God for the lack of Dr. Ogden.)

As a book on its own, it wasn't too bad. The beginning was a trifle slow, with a large cast of minor characters
An Odd1
Sep 21, 2013 An Odd1 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery prefer favorite TV series where author consults. Elegant dresses hats gloves, inventors inventions (Tesla, Bell; lie-detector, airplane), humor - they laugh at modern impossibilities, like CN tower silhouette. Both address serious issues of the last century.

"Except the dying" is from an Emily Dickinson verse beginning "The last night that she lived" , and opens with such a scene. Catches morbid curiosity. Clothes are surreptitiously stolen from a pretty f
Oct 08, 2009 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
this is probably my first historical mystery since my childhood attempts at arthur conan doyle, so my take on the genre probably isn't worth much. that said, this is a fun, engaging novel with a nice sense of toronto at the tail end of the 19th century. there's something charmingly restrained about its narrative, which has all the sordid details i expect from a murder mystery but still finds room for a good-hearted, cautious, gentle christian protagonist. as a look at christianity, the book is p ...more
Sep 05, 2015 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Decent police procedural but I'm obviously spoiled by the attractive character played by Yannick Bisson in the TV series, because the personalities are not nearly as strong in the book, the solution seems rather motiveless, and watching before reading made it clear how very loosely the books are related to the series. Obviously I'm not the only one because it was tough to get ahold of this through my public library and it's the first in the series.
Nov 22, 2014 Sven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have to agree with other reviewers who've seen the series first and then read the book: book is definitely weaker. Murdoch is drawn somewhat shallow and other characters lack unique personalities save some of them. I'd probably rate the book higher if hadn't followed the series for a while.
There are two things that left me unsatisfied in addition to character development: what was the motive for the murder and why bring in Mr. X to carry the crucial part of the solution?
Mar 26, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the book. Wanted to read it because I had been watching the Murdoch Mysteries. Although it was a bit different than the series, it was a lot of fun to read. Didn't even skip to the end to see what happened and for anyone knows my reading style that was really something.
Sep 22, 2011 Thebruce1314 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've finally given in to the electronic revolution and read my first ebook on the iPad! After watching all four seasons of the Murdoch Mysteries this summer, I was curious about the books. The characters are a little different and Murdoch's love interest was missing from this first installment, but overall it was quite an enjoyable book and a very quick read. I love the setting of turn of the century Toronto; the author has clearly done her research and it was easy to imagine myself wandering th ...more
Tim (Urges)
A decent historical thriller. I enjoyed Jennings's style but I would enjoy it more in a different genre.
Oct 18, 2015 Drtaxsacto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I became aware of the Murdoch mysteries (this is the first one) because the series of books were turned into a Canadian TV series and was recommended to me on Netflix. Except the Dying introduces us to detective William Murdoch - who is a turn of the century detective in Toronto. He uses some quite modern techniques to figure out crimes. The TV series is quite compelling and the book is similarly fun.

By the time Jennings' work was transformed into the Murdoch Mysteries characters had evolved - b
Jana Denardo
Aug 29, 2015 Jana Denardo rated it really liked it
I admit it, I read this because I love the Artful Detective (as the Canadian TV show The Murdoch Mysteries is called in the States). I knew it would be radically different from the tv show because they always are. And it was at least in book 1.

That said I really enjoyed this. It's a well done historical mystery reminding me of Anne Perry's early days. William Murdoch is a Roman Catholic (gasp, a horrible thing to be in this part of Canada in the late 1880s which was mostly Protestant and I brin
Aug 27, 2015 Cornerofmadness rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, historical
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 12, 2015 Deane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being the promoted selection for the "One Island, One Book" program for the summer by the PEI Library system led me to reading "Except the Dying". There is also a TV series on CBC called The Murdock Mysteries based upon Jennings' books which I have never watched because I am not a fan of mysteries that take place before 1900....but this book was a very good read.

The story takes place in Toronto, ON in 1895 with Acting Detective William Murdock as the man in charge of solving the mystery of the
This is my second Murdoch mystery, though I think this was included in the PBS series. It is hard to review the first book of any author's series because the author improves her/his craft (usually) as s/he writes others. However, Jennings does already have a feel for the 1890's Toronto--or at least makes me think that she does (I don't know about that time in Toronto) for there is great similarity of living in a large city of that time e.g. New York (Gaslight series of Victoria Thompson). Jennin ...more
Jann Barber
Sep 25, 2014 Jann Barber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an instance where I prefer the Canadian TV series to the books, even though this first book was quite good. In the book, Crabtree has a minor role, is an extremely tall man, and has four children with a fifth on the way. In the series, he is definitely involved in the cases, is unmarried, and adds a certain innocence and awe in his willingness to posit aliens as potential perpetrators.

The book's settings are probably more accurate, as life was still difficult for many in the 1890s and p
May 26, 2014 Cindy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I really wanted to read this first book about Detective William Murdoch since I really enjoy the Canadian television series. The book is well-written, with lots of twists and turns as to who the murderer turned out to be. Murdoch is a little different from the tv character, but that is to be expected. I plan to read the second book by Ms. Jennings. I hope Constable Crabtree and Inspector Brackenreid is more prominent in the books to come.
Tracy Enright
This is the first of the books that inspired the Murdoch Mysteries TV series. A young maidservant is murdered and it's down to Detective William Murdoch to find the culprit amongst a widening pool of suspects that include everyone from a stable boy and a sailor to a doctor and other pillars of the community.

If you were expecting the characters from the TV series, you'll be disappointed since some of them have little in common apart from a name, but there is the odd detail that will be familiar t
Scott Williams
Aug 03, 2013 Scott Williams rated it really liked it
I've been a fan of the Murdoch Mysteries television series for a few years but am only now getting around to reading the original novels. This is a fairly simple story but Jennings' writing makes it a wonderful read. It's obvious that she's done a great deal of research and her attention to detail is wonderful. In a way, this book is a valentine to Toronto. Jennings' descriptions really bring 19th century Toronto to life. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
Mar 17, 2012 Bridget rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a disappointment after the Canadian TV series. The characters with whom I fell in love in the first season of "Murdock Mysteries" are really nothing like the ones in the book. In the book, they're not nearly as likeable, and definitely not as lovable. Then there's the constant stream of innuendos, which was annoying in the first few chapters, chafing in the next few, and downright painful in the last few. All in all, not worth the hours it takes to read.
Salima K
Apr 15, 2014 Salima K rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Considering this was a historical fiction with murder and mystery, I was quite excited to read it. But what I found was just a boring old tale.

Now, I did't particularly have a problem with Jenning's writing; in fact she writes every detail to a crisp. I enjoyed the cold winter setting and Toronto seeming a little bit more like Victorian London. However I thought that she gave a lot of unnecessary detail, for example giving almost a whole page or two just on how the snow was falling or how a hous
Janet McCord
Feb 20, 2016 Janet McCord rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although this says "Detective Murdoch" it's obviously pre-TV show and the series the show is (loosely) based on. The characters are nearly unrecognizable to fans of the Murdoch Mysteries show. Murdoch himself, as described, has only 3 things that I could see in common with his TV alter-ego: he's got dark hair, he's Catholic and he rides a bicycle. Constable Crabtree in the book is muscular, red-headed and has a wife and many children! So, it is a bit of a shock to try to reconcile them. All that ...more
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Maureen Jennings, now a Canadian Citizen, was born on Eastfield Road in Birmingham, England and spent her formative years there until she emigrated to Canada at the age of seventeen with her mother.

This has meant that she still feels a deep connection with her homeland. It has also no doubt been a strong influence in her love for, and her writing about, the Victorian period. She attended the Unive
More about Maureen Jennings...

Other Books in the Series

Detective Murdoch (7 books)
  • Under the Dragon's Tail (Detective Murdoch, #2)
  • Poor Tom Is Cold (Detective Murdoch, #3)
  • Let Loose the Dogs (Detective Murdoch, #4)
  • Night's Child (Detective Murdoch, #5)
  • Vices of My Blood (Detective Murdoch, #6)
  • A Journeyman to Grief (Detective Murdoch, #7)

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