Monday 30 June 2014

Murder Most Unladylike, Robin Stevens

Pages: 336
Publisher: Corgi
Release Date: 5th June 2014
Edition: UK proof, review copy

The first gripping Agatha Cristie-style mystery starring a brilliant new double act: feisty, funny, schoolgirl detectives, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong. 

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 Sciecne Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must 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?

It took me weeks of hearing how charming and fun and utterly wonderful Murder Most Unladylike is before I caved and requested it from NetGalley – it’s just not something I would pick up myself. I am so, so glad I listened to my Twitter feed!

A middle grade murder mystery set in a 1930s all girls boarding school brings too things to mind immediately: Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton – two things I bypassed completely in my childhood. They never appealed to me and now having read Murder Most Unladylike, I have no idea why. I think I missed out. I love the strong sense of place of a boarding school, the subtle differences of a familiar environment set eighty years ago, the intense friendships forged and how easy it is to sneak out in the middle of the night to investigate a murder.

The novel was set out in a way that suited the story perfectly. It was segmented into developments of the Case of Miss Bell as the book itself is Hazel Wong writing up their investigation as the Detective Society Secretary. I really liked the handwritten suspect list which was updated every so often with new evidence, alibis, motives and ruling outs. I especially liked this set up as Hazel is the sidekick in the operation for the most part of the novel, and yet it’s her that’s telling the story.

Daisy is the President of the Detective Society and she calls the shots. I have to admit that I ended up really disliking Daisy at points during the novel. Daisy and Hazel have a very unequal friendship, and though it’s not malicious or purposeful on Daisy’s part, I hate the way she pushed Hazel around and disregarded her opinions and feelings. I’ve been the sidekick in a lot of friendships and I know how horrible it can be – it made me react irrationally strongly to some of the exchanges between the girls! But both girls are such strong characters, each with different skills and personality traits to lend to their investigations which made them a brilliant detective duo.

The strength of character extended the whole cast of the novel, especially the teachers. Each was so distinct and played really strong roles in the hunt for Miss Bell’s character – it’s a great way to explore one of those things that was fascinating in primary and middle school – The Secret Lives of Teachers. It’s made me start to wonder all over again what my favourite teachers were up to...

Murder Most unladylike is witty, charming and so much fun and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m so glad book two, Arsenic for Tea, is coming out in January.

Thanks to RHCP and NetGalley for the review copy.


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