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After thirteen-year-old Agnes Fisher faints at school, her teacher, the young and still idealistic Amy Slade, is shocked to discover in the girl's desk two stereoscopic photographs. One is of a dead baby in its cradle, and on the back Agnes has scrawled a terrible message. Worse, the other photograph is of Agnes in a pose captioned "What Mr. Newly Wed Really Wants." When Agnes doesn't show up at school the next day, her teacher takes the two photographs to the police. Murdoch, furious at the sexual exploitation of such a young girl, resolves to find the photographer and to put him behind bars. Night's Childis the fifth novel in Maureen Jennings's highly praised historical mystery series. Three of Jennings's novels have been made into TV movies under the titleMurder 19C: The Murdoch Mysteries. Bravo/CHUM is currently developing a series based on the character of Detective William Murdoch for broadcast in 2007. From the Paperback edition.
Maureen Jennings’s Detective Murdoch series has been a hit from the start. Published to rave reviews, the first novel, Except the Dying, was 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. And Let Loose the Dogs was shortlisted for the 2004 Anthony Award for best historical mystery.
Three of the novels have been adapted for television, and 13 episodes of a television series, The Detective Murdoch Mysteries, based on the characters from the novels, is now in pre-production for CHUM/Bravo.
Born in the U.K., Jennings now lives in Toronto.
Miss Amy Slade was seated at her desk, surveying her class. For the moment, the room was quiet, the only sound was of chalk moving on slate boards. By rights the children should have been writing in notebooks, but Miss Slade had taken spare slates from the lower standards and used them for rough work. “Then you don’t have to worry about perfection, which as we know doesn’t exist,” she told her pupils. She caught the eye of Emmanuel Hart and frowned at him.
“How many times must I remind you, Emmanuel? The mind is like a muscle and must be exercised else it grow flabby and inert.”
The boy bent his head immediately to the task of long division. He was a big boy, too old to still be in the fourth standard, but he had missed a lot of school and his reading and writing was barely at the level of the younger children. In a different classroom he would have been either the bully or the butt of ridicule. Not here. Miss Slade, without ever resorting to the cane, ran a tight, disciplined ship. She was strict about what she called the rules of order, which she’d established on the first day of the term. No talking when there was work to be done; only one voice at a time when there was a question-and-answer period; absolutely no tormenting of other children. Any infraction of these rules and the offending child, almost always one of the boys, was sent to the Desk of Thoughtfulness, which was right under her nose. Here he had to sit and reflect on his behaviour while all around him the class enjoyed the games and competitions that Miss Slade used to liven up her lessons. “Learning should be the most fun you ever have,” she told her pupils. And so she made it. On her desk was a large jar full of brightly coloured boiled sweets. The winner of the competition could choose one. But it was not just the succulent bribery of raspberry drops that won the children’s devotion, even though that helped a great deal. What they came to respect most was Miss Slade’s justice. She dispensed praise and occasional scoldings with an absolutely even hand whether it was to a hopeless case like Emmanuel Hart or to Mary, the clever, exquisitely dressed daughter of Councillor Blong. One or two of the girls, already too prissy to be saved, disliked and mistrusted her, but the others loved her.
This was Miss Slade’s third year of teaching at Sackville Street School and her fourth placement. Although her pupils didn’t know it, her contract was precarious. She was far too radical a teacher for the board’s taste, and if she hadn’t consistently produced such excellent results, she would have been dismissed long ago.
She waited a moment longer, enjoying theput, putsound of the chalk on the slates. Then she clapped her hands.
"Excellent. There is nothing quite as fine as the silence of the intelligent mind at work. What is it that makes so much noise? Hands up if you know the answer.”
Every arm shot up, hands waving like fronds.
“Good. I would expect you to know the answer to that as I have said it innumerable times. Who hasn’t answered a question lately? Benjamin Fisher, you.”
The skinny boy’s face lit up. “The most noise in the brain comes from the rattle of empty thoughts, Miss Slade.”
“Yes, of course. You can get a sweet later. Now, wipe off your slates, everybody, and put them in your desks.”
There was a little flurry of activity, desk lids lifted, as the children did as she asked.
“Monitors, open the windows wide, if you please.”
Florence Birrell and Emmanuel Hart got up promptly and went to push up the window sashes. Cold air poured into the classroom, which was hot and stuffy. The large oil heater in the centre of the room dried out the air. The girls
Excerpted from Night's Child by Maureen Jennings All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.