Friday, 11 July 2014

Murder Most Unladylike - Robin Stevens – Review - 3D Review

Adult Review

The blurb on the back of book states, “Murder Most Unladylike’ is Enid Blyton meets Agatha Christie; an intricately plotted and gripping mystery set at a 1930’s boarding school. In Murder Most Unladylike début Author Robin Steven’s has managed just that, producing one of those rare books that is perfect for competent 11+ readers who crave a more sophisticated read that is age appropriate.

Murder Most Ladylike, is a gem, capturing the time period and yet retaining enough similarities to today’s children to make it obtainable to the reader, and bringing the feel of a classic the likes of Blyton’s Mallory Towers or Secret Seven. The story follows The Wells and Wong Detective Society; a secrets organisation founded and run 13 year olds Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, to solve mysteries like The Case of Lavinia’s Missing Tie, as they investigate the murder of their science mistress Miss Bell. Despite the ‘M’ word in the title, Murder Most Unladylike is suitable for the readership, it is tastefully written with no gore or violence, and starts with Hazel when she stubbles across the dead body of Deepdean School for Girl’s science mistress Miss Bell. When Hazel fetches help only to find the corpse has vanished, self-appointed president of the detective society the confident cunning and beautiful Daisy declares that there is only one thing to do, solve the murder because “People can’t be allowed to get away with murder at Deepdean!”

The girls begin their investigation, drawing up a list of suspects (from the airing cupboard), all whom have the motive and opportunity to have committed the crime. Using every trick in the book (or at least then detective and murder mystery novels that Daisy reads) they whittle down the down the list, all without the hindrance of an police investigation as Miss Bell conveniently left a letter of resignation after her fatal fall from the gym balcony. The girl take full advantage of the school gossip and take on take ever increasing daring endeavours to uncover the truth, from following the suspects to feigning sickness so to be omitted to the sickbay in the main building so they can search the school at night. 

The plot is complex, and every time Daisy and Hazel get close a new piece of evidence stirs them into a new direction, and the when they finally solve the case the twist is most unexpected and satisfying. This book will keep readers guess and on the tip of their toes, it also has all the feel of the great murder mystery novels of the time, with Daisy’s brisk no nonsense Sherlock / Poirot character to Hazels more timid Watson/ Miss Marple. The book also has a map of Deepdean School showing all the important locations to the case which has an air of Cluedo about it which is an added bonus, and they have helpfully listed the key characters and included a Daisy’s Guide to Deepdean which is a glossary of terms, which tells you exactly what a chump, card View’halloo is and why you can eat a squashed fly! 

Child Review by Isobel (age 9)

Murder Most Unladylike is a detective story featuring two school girls at Deepdean boarding school. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong find a mistress murdered on the floor of the gym hall, they start a detective society and when another mistress goes missing they need to find out, who is the murderer?

The book is an easy read and you meet lots of Daisy and Hazel’s classmates. There are hand written suspect lists and diary entries in the book which add to the story. When Daisy calls her Mum from school you only read Daisy’s side of the conversation but you can guess the other side and it’s funny to imagine the Mother’s voice. 

Murder Most Unladylike is a book containing comedy, mystery and tragedy, an enjoyable read and once picked up is impossible to put down, I read the first half in one evening! You have to wait until the very end to find out the solution to the mystery, and I was amazed by the complexity.

The book is a more grown up Malory Towers type read (8-11 years olds) and it’s just how I imagine boarding school to be. I’m looking forward to reading more in the series and following Hazel through school.

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