Friday, 27 February 2015

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Alternate Title: Murder Is Bad Manners
Series: Wells and Wong, Book One
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Format: Paperback
Published5th June 2014
Number of Pages: 352
Book: Paperback
Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction, Murder Mystery, Historical, Suspense, Thriller, Action-Adventure, Middle Grade, YA, YA-Child Crossover
Recommended Age: 9+
Contains: Death, Mild Swearing and Alcohol References
Author's Site: Robin Stevens

“Are you sure we shouldn’t just go to the police?” I asked.
“Don’t be stupid,” said Daisy severely.  “We don’t have any evidence yet.  We don’t even have a body.  They’d simply laugh at us.  No, we’re on our own.  And anyway, this is our murder case.”

When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up a secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they can’t find a truly exciting mystery to investigate.  (Unless you count The Case of Lavinia’s Missing Tie.  Which they don’t.)
Then Hazel discovers the body of the Science Mistress, Miss Bell – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared.  Now the girls have to solve a murder, and prove a murder happened in the first place, before the killer strikes again (and before the police get there first, naturally).
But will they succeed? 
And can their friendship stand the test?

I've been hooked to murder mysteries for as long as I can remember and I've read and watched so, so many – all different sorts, in all shapes and forms.  But in all my murder-mystery-ing, I've never read anything like Murder Most Unladylike.  It was fun and light, but also addictive and suspenseful.  Young and old crime fiction fans like me will adore it – it's just impossible to resist!
“We're still the only people who can solve the crimes."
I had to admit that Daisy's logic made sense.  Under the circumstances, in fact, the Detective Society had never seemed so important.'  
The year: 1934.  The location: Deepdean School For Girls.  The Mystery: The murder and disappearance of Miss Bell.  The Detectives: Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells of the Wells & Wong Detective Society.
When Daisy Wells decides that she and her best friend, Hazel Wong, will set up a Detective Society at Deepdean School For Girls, she hopes for exciting cases.  But she gets none.
And then Hazel stumbles across a body in the gym – literally.  She runs to find Daisy, but by the time they return, the body has vanished.  Without the body, they have no evidence – and no chance of proving a murder has taken place.
So Daisy decides that she and Hazel will serve the murder, much to Hazel's horror.
And so they begin finding clues, following suspects and making secret inquiries, with Hazel writing down everything they find.
Soon, the stakes rise and the girls find that proving the murder happened might be even harder than stopping the killer striking again – and remaining friends throughout the investigation...
Up until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t read this book, even though I'd heard so many good things.  I don’t know why I hadn’t read it – Murder Most Unladylike is so my kind of book!  I mean, Nancy Drew-Sherlock types in a boarding school in the 1930s trying to find a killer?  C'mon, tell me that doesn’t sound totally awesome?!  So when I got the chance to review the book, I said: YES PLEASE!  And man, Murder Most Unladylike exceeded my expectations.  It was so much fun – and so utterly addictive!  I started reading, just planning on reading a few pages, and then before I knew it I was halfway through and utterly hooked, unable to stop reading.  Always a good sign in a mystery!
Hazel was brilliant – level-headed, sweet, a little nervous, but understandably so!  She was far more sensible than Daisy, more likable too, since her ego was nowhere near as big and she was much more sympathetic and in touch with her emotions.  Daisy, however, intrigued me more.  She looked like the perfect little British girl, but she was really this logical, rational, genius, sceptical want-to-be detective with a brilliant mind and intuition.  She was a bit like Sherlock: at times it was hard to know why you liked her, but she was so intriguing it was hard not to, even when she did these strange things and showed her shockingly large ego.  
The relationship the two of them had was rather intriguing – and by the end the perfect tortoise-and-rabbit example of murder mystery solving (read MMU and you'll get it).  I loved how close the girls were, and yes, they still had little spats – but they made up.  I liked watching Daisy evolve into a better person and Hazel evolve into someone a little more daring.  They were so good for one another and really grew in the short space of the novel.
The other characters were varied and brilliant: each was original and real, unlike many younger murder mysteries, where there are cardboard-cut-out characters.  I won’t say any more on the characters: don’t want to give you any suspect-spoilers!
I will talk about the writing, ‘cause it was simply smashing: it felt totally perfect for the era!  I adored it – it felt as if I'd been transported back in time!  Hazel's voice was brilliant and addictive – her compassion and humanity really came across – and I simply loved the casebook style of writing.  There was lots of suspense in Murder Most Unladylike, but humour too.  Some bits (mainly involving Daisy's brilliantly barmy plans) made me laugh out loud.  And all the while, the suspense grew!
A murder in a boarding school, two girls determined to find the killer...  C'mon, how can't you want to find out more?  There was a real Nancy Drew feel to Murder Most Unladylike – only I adored MMU way more than I ever liked Nancy Drew.  As with all good murder mysteries, there were twists, false turns and red herrings – along with numerous suspects.  I was quite proud of myself by the end: I'd had a suspicion for quite a while that turned out to be true – of course, I had two or three similar suspicions that were completely terrible...  But still!  I've always enjoyed murder mysteries and Murder Most Unladylike totally appealed to my life-long love of the genre, making me even more excited than a Diagnosis Murder marathon!
As for the setting: loved it!  I've always found the archetypal British boarding school to be a fascinating place for a story.  Put said story back in the 1930s and you get a deliriously happy book addicted girl!  I mean, I loved the boarding school setting so much I just wanted to go back in time and go to Deepdean – be in the Detective Society with Daisy and Hazel, sneak around solving a murder, have bun breaks and just do everything!  Someone invent a time machine ASAP!
I also adored all the Sherlockian nods in Murder Most Unladylike: as a Sherlocked gal, I found this addictive!  And seeing the diversity in the book was awesome too: canoodling between men and women and two women, a Chinese Watson, the younger girls “pashing” on Daisy...   Oh, and the map and character list at the front and 'Daisy's Guide To Deepdean' at the back were just awesome!  I loved both – especially Daisy's guide: her voice was brilliant and so Daisy!
I've not had so much fun reading a book for ages as I did reading Murder Most Unladylike.  Utterly compelling, captivating, fun and addictive, I easily read it in one sitting and was left feeling desperate for more.  
Oh, I just can't recommend this one enough!  I absolutely adored it and cannot wait to get my greedy little hands on the next Wells and Wong book!  With enough thrills to keep a crime junkie like me happy and more than enough light hearted silliness to entertain all, Murder Most Unladylike will appeal to everyone – and everyone should read it, ASAP!

Star Rating:
4½ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
Young Sherlock Holmes by Andrew Lane
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review

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