In the second book from talented writing team D.E. Ireland, famous literary characters Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins once again come to life as a hilarious investigative team. Move Your Blooming Corpse explores the Edwardian racing world and the fascinating characters who people it, from jockeys to duchesses, in this delightful traditional mystery that will appeal to fans of British mysteries.
Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins are at the posh Royal Ascot, the biggest horse racing event of the season. Eliza's father is the new co-owner of a champion racehorse, and Eliza and Henry are excited to cheer the Donegal Dancer on to victory. However, their idyllic outing takes a serious turn when a victim is trampled during the Gold Cup race and someone is found murdered in the stables.
With time running out before the upcoming Eclipse Stakes, she and Higgins investigate jealous spouses, suffragettes and the colorful co-owners of the Donegal Dancer. But can they outrace the murderer, or will there be another blooming corpse at the finish line?
This sequel to 2014's Wouldn't It Be Deadly from the pseudonymous Ireland (Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta) suffers from the absence of any real conflict. The relationship between Eliza Doolittle, who has already succeeded in consistently passing as a member of the upper set, and Professor Higgins lacks tension; Eliza's love-interest remains colorless; and even her father, Alfred, has become respectable. At the Royal Ascot in 1913, the eccentric Harold Hewitt runs onto the racetrack and is trampled. Higgins, who spoke with Hewitt earlier (and identified him as a Harrow graduate by his accent), saw Hewitt carrying a case with a gun. Oddly, the professor first watches a race before notifying the police of this potential threat. Though Hewitt survives his injuries, Diana Price, a horse owner impaled with a pitchfork, does not. Eliza is refreshingly not relegated to the sidekick role, but fails to impress as an investigator.
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These Pages Will Move Quickly
Earlier this year, I rediscovered the characters of Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle as detectives thanks to the wonderful writing team of D. E. Ireland. I was looking forward to their next adventure in Move Your Blooming Corpse. I’m thrilled to say that it is another winner.
If those names don’t ring any bells, they are two of the characters in George Bernard Shaw’s classic play Pygmalion. Still not ringing any bells? You might know them best from the musical My Fair Lady which was based on Pygmalion. The bare essentials – Henry Higgins is an expert in dialects and proper pronunciation in 1910’s England. As a bet, he teaches Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney young woman, to speak proper English and passes her off as someone of the upper classes. While there was no mystery in the original story, these mysteries take place after the events that made the characters famous and fit quite naturally into their world.
This book opens in June of 1913 and finds Eliza and Higgins at the Royal Ascot for a full day of racing. They are there to support Eliza’s father who has just bought a share of a race horse. Between races, Higgins sees a strange man, Harold Hewitt, with a gun hidden in his bag. Before he can find a policeman to report it to, Hewitt runs onto the track, getting trample by a horse and disrupting a race. The bigger surprise is when a woman is found murdered in a horse stall after that race.
While the police think that Hewitt is a suffragette reenacting a stunt done the previous month to gain attention for the cause, Higgins is certain that the man was up to something else. In fact, Higgins thinks he could have prevented the murder in the stable if only he had reported Hewitt sooner. Dragging Eliza along, Higgins begins to investigate. But when another murder takes place, Eliza begins to realize that the murders could hit close to home. Will Eliza and Henry be able to solve the crime before disaster strikes again?
The book definitely starts out strongly with mysterious events happening from the very first chapter. Eliza is a bit reluctant to start investigating early on, but once she jumps on board as well, the pace really picks up and I had a hard time putting the book down until the page turning climax. The pieces of the puzzle come together in a logical manner and the mystery is absolutely wonderful.
The first book had a lot of nods and homages to Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t seen either play in several years, but I didn’t find as many of them here. However, that’s not a bad thing because it means the writers are making these characters their own, and to sustain a long running series, they will have to do that. I’m all in favor of this being a long running series, too. I could definitely see character growth in the main cast, most of it for the better. (Really, I’m with Eliza and would love to knock some sense into the Eynsford-Hills.) Even so, those who love these characters from the plays will certainly recognize them. The new characters were well developed and interesting as well, and I enjoyed getting to know them, too. I wouldn’t complain if one or two of them had cameos (or larger roles) in future books, in fact.
The historical details of the book are wonderful, and I found myself getting lost in another time and place as I read. The campaign to give women the right to vote was definitely a part of that historical feel, and I liked seeing that fight first hand.
There is a fun sense of humor in this book as well. While there isn’t a laugh on every page, I found myself grinning and chuckling multiple times as I read through the story.
D. E. Ireland has turned these classic characters into their own so effortlessly, it almost makes me wonder why no one has done it before. If you are a fan of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, or just historical mysteries in general, you need to pick up Move Your Blooming Corpse.