Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

This is the first murder that Wells and Wong Detective Society has ever investigated, so it is a good thing Daisy bought me a new casebook. The last one was finished after we solved The Case of Lavinia’s Missing Tie. The solution to that, of course was that Clementine stole it in revenge for Lavinia punching her in the stomach during lacrosse, which was Lavinia’s revenge for Clementine telling everyone Lavinia came from a broken home. I suspect that the solution to this new case may be more complex.
Also known as ‘Murder is Bad Manners’ in the US
Published June 2014 by Corgi
UK cover design by Nina Tara
316 pages in paperback
Summary from Robin Stevens’ own website: http://robin-stevens.co.uk/
When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)
But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.
Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?
I should first point out that I received this book by accident. I retweeted the competition to support a fellow writer – and then blow me, but I won it. It would not normally be the sort of thing I’d go for. The jolly blue cover gives you the feel of it – I thought well, it looks fun.
So I read it fully expecting an Agatha Christie crossed with an Enid Blyton – which isn’t too far off. It has both the page turning attraction and the clever plotting of those two, together with oodles of period charm. I thought ‘Daisy’s Guide to Deepdean’ at the end was a delight and very handy. There’s a plan and a list of characters too.
But – it’s better than that. You can read it happily enough as a cosy crime for younger readers – yet there’s rather more to it. Robin Stevens has gone beyond nostalgia to cover both difficult school relationships most readers will recognise, and racism in a subtle yet effective way. She also did not shy away from recognising the impact of such a crime as murder. I was not expecting those aspects at all – very impressed. I have ‘Arsenic for Tea’ ready to read soon.
I would highly recommend ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ for any fairly fluent reader who likes mysteries and boarding school stories with a sense of fun, but also with intelligence and heart. A kind of Sherlock Holmes for schoolchildren. It would be great for a book club to discuss! 

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