First Class Murder
By Robin Stevens
Published by Corgi / Random House
ISBN 978 0 552 57074 9
In 1934, Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express, a book that turned out to be one of her most ingenious stories. The novel was turned into a film in 1974, a TV adaptation came out in 2010, and there are plans for another Hollywood version.
Christie’s mystery is a classic tale of murder and detection. A group of passengers are travelling through Europe on the Orient Express, a glamorous cross-continental train. The famous detective Hercule Poirot just happens to be one of the group. When a passenger is stabbed to death, Poirot springs into action to track down the murderer. It’s an edge-of-the-seat story that fans think is one of the “Queen of Crime’s” best.
Robin Stevens follows in the great Agatha’s footsteps with the latest entertaining addition to her Murder Most Unladylike series of detective stories. Her two schoolgirl sleuths, the headstrong Daisy Wells and her thoughtful friend, Hazel Wong, set up their detective agency at school a while ago, and they have already solved two baffling cases.
Hazel’s father isn’t too pleased that his daughter sees herself as an amateur detective, so during the long summer holidays he decides to take Hazel and Daisy away on a holiday where they won’t get into trouble or come across any grisly murders. He books tickets for the three of them in the first class carriage of the Orient Express on a trip through Europe.
As they board the famous train, he makes it clear to both girls that there is to be no unladylike behaviour – and by that he means no detective work.
But Hazel and Daisy are natural detectives. And there is no holding a good detective down, is there Mrs Christie?
Stevens sets things up very nicely, just as Christie did in the original classic. Everyone in the first class carriage seems to be hiding a secret, and one or two of the passengers are soon acting very suspiciously.
When Mrs Georgiana Daunt, the owner of a priceless diamond necklace, is found dead in her cabin, there are plenty of suspects. Thank goodness, then, that there just so happen to be two detectives on board to look into the case.
Will this be the third successful case for the Wells and Wong Detective Society, or this time will the killer slip though their fingers?
First Class Murder is a terrific read that doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. Stevens does a great job of creating a cast of intriguing suspects and building up tension as the Orient Express speeds along.
This is the best of the Murder Most Unladylike series so far, with Stevens cementing herself firmly as the new queen of children’s detective stories.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com