Murdoch makes a surprising discovery at a dolls house fair when he finds that in one of the houses the artist has placed a hand firing a gun. He soon realizes that this is no ordinary model, it's a crime scene. Murdoch finds the creator of the streetscape, an autistic 19-year-old named Lydia, who communicates best through model building. No one has reported a hug yet, but using the model's intricate clues left by Lydia, Murdoch discovers that someone indeed has been killed ? but what happened and why? Someone is far from happy by his investigations and things begin to get even more sinister in the neighbourhood.
The series takes place in Toronto in the 1890s and follows Detective William Murdoch of the Toronto Constabulary, who solves many of his cases using methods of detection that were unusual at the time. These methods include fingerprinting, blood testing, surveillance, and trace evidence.
Detective Murdoch is assisted by the three other main characters: Inspector Brackenreid, Doctor Julia Ogden, and the inexperienced but eager Constable George Crabtree, who aspires to be a mystery-novel writer. Brackenreid, Murdoch's immediate superior, is a blunt and sceptical Yorkshireman with a fondness for whiskey, and prefers conventional methods of detection over Murdoch's eccentric methods, though he is typically pleased and proud when Murdoch is successful despite the odds. Crabtree is often unable to grasp the more advanced methods, but his enthusiasm and loyalty make him a good assistant. Like Crabtree, Dr. Ogden is a great supporter of Murdoch's methods. Her skill in pathology usually helps by revealing a great deal of useful evidence to aid Murdoch in solving cases.
Throughout the series Murdoch's growing infatuation with her, and his inability to express his feelings, provide a light subplot. In the fifth season, after Dr. Ogden is married to Dr. Darcy Garland (a colleague she met in Buffalo), a new doctor is introduced, Dr. Emily Grace. She and George Crabtree show some romantic interest in each other.