Murder Most Unladylike – Robin Stevens (Review)

murder most unladylikeWhen Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own 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.)

Then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She assumes it was a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove one happened in the first place.

This was great fun: a mash-up romp between school and detective stories. Not laugh-aloud funny, as after all murder is a serious business, but I was smiling by the end of the first paragraph and knew I would enjoy the book.

Robin Stevens clearly enjoys using all the tropes of the school girl/boarding school genre, complete with a Mamzelle to teach French (though of course she has a secret), dorms, tuck, and midnight feasts.  It is set in 1934, but is written in a way that (apart from once, see if you spot it) does not jar with either the date set or readers today.  She does not pull her punches – there has always been a vein of “the English, the English, the English are best” in these stories, and the author shows this from the perspective of non-English characters in a way that Enid Blyton et al. never bothered.  She also has fun with references – the heroine is called Daisy (as are many historical school girl heroines, e.g. in Daisy Pulls it Off), the Inspector who comes in at the end to tidy up when the girls have already solved the case is Inspector Priestly.  And, naturally, there are quotes galore from Sherlock Holmes stories.  From evidence on the author’s website I think this book is aimed at teenagers, but honestly, it’s worth reading as an adult too.

I don’t want to give too much away, but there are school secrets, unexpected twists, and more than one murder.  Of course the grown-ups don’t even notice the murders at first, but the plucky pair not only discover them, but also solve them neatly – and provide all the necessary evidence – for the police.  I strongly recommend this book, and will be reading the sequels to see if they live up to it as soon as I can get my hands on them (and through my to-be-read piles all over the house).

Buy it here, unless you are an American, in which case the book has been re-named and “Americanized” as Murder Is Bad Manners, and is available here.

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