Murdoch Mysteries Wiki

"Painted Ladies" is the seventh episode of the tenth season of the Murdoch Mysteries and the one hundred thirty-ninth of the series. It first aired November 21, 2016.


Murdoch suspects a connection between the murders of men found with lipstick smudges on their faces and George's burlesque dancer sweetheart.

A canoeist finds the dead victim in a swan boat floating on the lake. While at first not clear what killed him, Dr. Ogden determines he died about 5 to 12 hours ago and finds a flirtation card on the body. Murdoch deduces that a woman gave him the card to arrange a meeting, then he brought her for a ride on the lake. Upon closer inspection, Ogden detects the smell of bitter almonds, possibly death by cyanide. Love was in the air and so was murder for a poor victim who didn’t get the ‘fun and results’ he was expecting. The female suspect is described as a blond who cuts a fine figure.

At the Station House, the wife of Cameron Fellowes reports that he hadn't returned home last night after a work meeting with Robert Roth of Crump Advertising Agency. Upon being informed of the circumstances of her husband’s death, Murdoch discovers that Mrs. Bessie Fellowes is in denial about her husband's dalliances. When questioned, Mr. Roth confesses that he often covers for his friend if his wife should ask; so he did not see Cameron last night, but Roth did see the card a woman slipped ‘Cam’ in a pub earlier.

Dr. Julia introduces Murdoch to a discreet store that sells cosmetics and its owner, Oscar Ducharme who recognizes the rouge as one he carries. After selling the Detective a necklace for his wife, Ducharme provides a list of his clientele. Mrs. Fellowes is not on the list but Miss Nina Bloom is.

In short order, Robert Roth becomes the second victim found poisoned with a small nick on his upper lip. The cyanide appears to be in the lip rouge the woman was wearing and is delivered through a bite on the victim’s lip – a kiss of death. Dr. Ogden concludes that the killer uses a wax barrier to insure her own safety. Bold and dangerous, the woman is very determined.

George can't imagine why Nina would be mixed up in all of this and that she is incapable of murder. The Detective reminds George that they must follow the evidence and Miss Bloom is a suspect. Murdoch limits George’s involvement in the case.

This method of murder is proving to be surprisingly effective as a third death is reported, a businessman named Mr. Neilson. His flirtation card has a printer’s mark, but they were special ordered entirely by mail to a post office address by a Miss Smith. She ordered ten in total, leaving her with seven. What do these three victims have in common? According to Neilson’s secretary, Miss Petrie, he was the sort of man who was entertained by insulting people, but he paid well and she could handle him, unlike his previous secretary. He berated poor Doris Strachan, who was not much to look at, reducing her to tears daily that she finally quit and moved to New York and never returned. The police there believe she committed suicide but no body was found.

The break in the mystery comes when the fourth victim, Morris Snider, a teacher, is discovered by school children on the school lawn. Among his effects, Crabtree finds an old school picture showing the class of 1894 with a young Snider with his pupils: Roth, Fellowes, and the future Mrs. Fellowes. As Bessie Fellowes goes over students in the picture, she recalls a girl who the boys and the teacher made fun of, 'Donkey' Doris.

George has a theory. There have been swans at every crime scene; maybe the ugly duckling Doris Strachan transformed into a beautiful swan getting revenge on her tormentors. Dr. Ogden adds that it does fit with the nature of the killings.  To the catch the sequential killer, they must uncover what she might look like today.

Character Revelations

  • While Nina Bloom doesn't give flirtation cards, she receives and collects them to George's consternation. George tells… asks her to throw them away and she refuses, causing a rift in their relationship.
  • Henry confesses about his 'charm' with women: "I always do fail". Higgins loses his self-confidence with the ladies.
  • Julia confesses,"Now, William,... I sometimes like to use a little lip rouge myself... "


  • Her studies at the Ontario Medical College for Women (ep.1005) is keeping Miss James from the City Morgue during this case.
  • With the Inspector absent at the Station House (ep.1006), first class Constable Higgins has been making life miserable for Constables McNabb and Jackson; they play a flirtation card trick to set him up for a humiliating rejection, but the prank doesn't go as Jackson expected.
  • Murdoch suggests that Crabtree stop by Eaton's, "...they boast the best that modern technology has to offer in their selection of alarm clocks."
  • Julia introduces|William to Oscar Ducharme, her purveyor of cosmetics, who later joins them in the City Morgue to help create a possible likeness of the transformed Doris Strachan.
  • When explaining his theory about the swans found at each murder scene, George tells the old fairy tale The Ugly Duckling, then stops himself, but Murdoch asks him to continue; "I'm sorry, sir, you don't usually let me get this far".

Historical References

  • The Victorian swan boats were inspired by an opera: Bostonian Robert Paget was searching for a way to conceal the machinery and human driver of a new, foot-powered paddleboat he invented in 1877. When he recalled seeing Wagner's opera "Lohengrin," the idea of covering his boats with giant, carved swans came to him. In the opera, the hero searches for the love of his life in a boat drawn by a swan
  • Victorians loved to communicate via calling card: there were mourning cards, cards for different celebrations, and of course dance cards. All of them were a kind of social gauntlet—a formal way of getting acquainted and keeping in touch. The young people took the calling cards a step further using risque flirtation cards to meet away from their chaperone and break the Victorian rules of proper courting.
  • As Oscar Ducharme points out, "Despite their beautifully transformative potential, cosmetics are still perceived as wicked."
  • In the early 1900s, tapeworm diets started to be advertised along with more sophisticated peddling of such products as the diet industry boom begins.
  • The Ugly Duckling is a literary fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875), about a homely little bird who suffers abuse from others around him until he matures into a beautiful swan, the most beautiful bird of all. It was first published November 1843 in Copenhagen, Denmark to great critical acclaim. 



Main Cast

Yannick Bisson as Detective William Murdoch
Hélène Joy as Dr. Julia Ogden
Thomas Craig as Inspector Thomas Brackenreid
Jonny Harris as Constable George Crabtree

Recurring Cast

Lachlan Murdoch as Constable Henry Higgins
Kristian Bruun as Constable Slugger Jackson
Erin Agostino as Nina Bloom
Katy Breier as Lydia Hall
Nathan Hoppe as Constable McNabb

Guest Cast

Thom Allison as Oscar Ducharme
Kate Corbett as Josie
Linzee Barclay as Mrs. Bessie Fellowes
Erin Eldershaw as Sadie Talbot
Jenny Weisz as Miss Petrie
Larry Mannell as Preston
Adam Rodness as Robert Roth
Scott McCrickard as Elmer
Stevie Jay as Canoeist


Murdoch Mysteries Season 10
Great Balls of Fire, Part 1Great Balls of Fire, Part 2A Study in PinkConcocting A KillerJagged Little PillBend It Like BrackenreidPainted LadiesWeekend at Murdoch'sExcitable ChapThe Devil InsideA Murdog MysteryThe MissingMr. Murdoch's NeighbourhoodFrom Murdoch to EternityHades Hath No FuryMaster LovecraftHot Wheels of ThunderHell to Pay
Season 1Season 2Season 3Season 4Season 5Season 6Season 7Season 8Season 9Season 10Season 11Season 12