Murder Most Unladylike
By Robin Stevens
Published by Corgi / Random House
There's been a rather shocking murder at Deepdean School for Young Ladies, a highly respectable boarding establishment for the daughters of the well-to-do. The event has shaken everyone to the core. Even more appalling is the possibility that someone inside the school is the murderer. With so many unanswered questions, the school needs the services of a good detective - or two!
Set in 1930s England, Robin Stevens' Murder Most Unladylike is a highly entertaining introduction to the murder mystery genre. The closed setting of the boarding school makes for a gripping whodunit.
A good detective is essential to the success of a murder mystery, and Stevens offers readers a new pair of amateur agents: schoolgirls Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong of The Wells & Wong Detective Society.
Don't underestimate the pair just because of their age; they might be young, but their detection skills are already up there with the best. Daisy and Hazel are almost complete opposites, which is why they make such a good team.
Daisy is bright and confident, and perhaps a bit arrogant. She is similar to Sherlock Holmes: observant and tenacious. Nothing much at Deepdean gets past her.
Hazel is an unusual student for pre-world-war Britain: she's Chinese, from Hong Kong. At first, English boarding school life is a bit of a shock for her, but Daisy takes her under her wing, and when the two of them set up their detective society, they become inseparable. Hazel plays the perfect Dr Watson to Daisy's Sherlock.
And what about that murder? One day Hazel discovers Miss Bell, the science mistress, lying dead in the gym. First of all, she thinks that it must have been a terrible accident, and that Miss Bell must have fallen from the balcony, but when Hazel brings Daisy back to look at the dead teacher, the body has disappeared.
Wells and Wong have a truly mysterious case on their hands. They have to act quickly to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again, so the girls hunt for evidence, spy on possible suspects and, like Agatha Christie's famous detective, Poirot, use all their "little grey cells" to solve the crime.
Stevens brings the pre-war period to life with great skill. Fans of classic boarding school stories and mystery novels will thoroughly enjoy this, and for anyone reading a whodunit for the first time, this may be the start of a long love affair.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com