Monday 19 January 2015

Arsenic for Tea, Robin Stevens

Pages: 352
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Release date: 29th January 2015
Edition: UK e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Murder Most Unladylike

Schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are at Daisy’s home, Fallingford, for the holidays. Daisy’s glamorous mother is throwing a tea party for Daisy’s birthday, and the whole family is invited, from eccentric Aunt Saskia to dashing Uncle Felix. But it soon becomes clear that this party isn’t really about Daisy at all. Naturally, Daisy is furious.

Then one of their party falls seriously, mysteriously ill – and everything points to poison.

With wild storms preventing anyone from leaving, or the police from arriving, Fallingford suddenly feels like a very dangerous place to be. Not a single person present is what they seem – and everyone has a secret or two. And when someone very close to Daisy looks suspicious, the Detective Society must do everything they can to reveal the matter the consequences.

Robin Stevens’ debut, Murder Most Unladylike, is a hard act to follow, but Arsenic for Tea is even more charming, sweet and touching.

One of the first things that sprung to mind when I read the synopsis for Hazel and Daisy’s second adventure was the play An Inspector Calls by JB Priestley. The idea of a murder being investigated at a family gathering, every person trapped in the house until all is revealed and suspicions focused on most, if not all, present. And then Inspector Priestley was mentioned and I saw it as a straight up homage to the satirical play. Both the play and Arsenic for Tea both explored the themes of class, society and the power of them in pre-war England and that actions have consequences that you can’t always imagine.

Something that was introduced in the first book in the series was Hazel’s heritage (she’s from Hong Kong) and the reception she often receives in England. That part of Hazel felt a lot stronger in Arsenic for Tea. It was consistently assumed that Hazel would have a lesser understanding of things that her English friends; she would be talked about and not to; the older generations would comment on her being ‘exotic’ and her presence as unusual, but Robin Stevens turned t around in a way that made an impact on me, and I imagine it will have on others too: England is the exotic place to Hazel. The strange traditions, class systems and way of life are alien to what Hazel has grown up with! This really came through with her regular recollections of home and her homesickness for Hong Kong.

The murder of Mr Curtis is full of suspects from the very beginning. It was quickly established that he wasn’t a very nice man and had made quite a lot of enemies, but as Hazel and Daisy investigated, they found a few more people on their list than they were expecting. It was actually really affecting to see Daisy uncover evidence against her loved ones and it revealed a lot about her life and childhood – it really shed some light on her.

This series comes vibrantly to life with Hazel’s warm, charming narration and I just want more Wells and Wong Mysteries. Thank goodness First Class Murder is only six months away.

Thanks to NetGalley and RHCP for the review copy!


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