Monday, 25 May 2015

Murder Most Unladylike and Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens (Children's, 9 years +, 10/10E & 10E/10E)

June 2014 & January 2015, Corgi Children's, 352 pages each, Paperback, Review copies

Content: murder, suspense, lots of humour and tension

Summary from Random House Children's Publishers
When 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.

Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?
Schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are at Daisy's home, Fallingford, for the holidays. Daisy's glamorous mother is throwing a tea party for Daisy's birthday, and the whole family is invited, from eccentric Aunt Saskia to dashing Uncle Felix. But it soon becomes clear that this party isn't really about Daisy at all. Naturally, Daisy is furious.

Then one of their party falls seriously, mysteriously ill - and everything points to poison.

With wild storms preventing anyone from leaving, or the police from arriving, Fallingford suddenly feels like a very dangerous place to be. Not a single person present is what they seem - and everyone has a secret or two. And when someone very close to Daisy looks suspicious, the Detective Society must do everything they can to reveal the truth . . . no matter the consequences.

Nayu's thoughts on both books  

Thanks to the fairly recent release of Arsenic For Tea I've entered the crazy, hilarious, and slightly crazy world of Hazel and Daisy. I grew up on Enid Blyton's various boarding school series (must read them again soon), which for me are how a boarding school should be. I've read modern boarding school reads which keep some of the same traditions (midnight feasts, pranks, not quite legal goings ons among students), but this is the first book which truly matches my ideal of a boarding school. It is set in an era without mobile phones! There's all the traditions like prep (homework), being allowed out to the local town for a time limit with a specific number of other classmates, punishments...and new ones like having a murder on the loose in both books, having a secret detective society, making lists of suspects and motives. 

I found it interesting the way Hazel finds English life strange because she's from China, and how in Arsenic For Tea the way people react to her at Daisy's home is different to being in a school environment. At times they seem like an unlikely duo, and there is some falling out at crucial parts of the story, but their different character traits mean that all areas of their investigations are covered, both the spontaneous side and taking thorough notes. All of the cast have traditional character elements – for example there is an entertaining French Mistress (book 1) & a melodramatic mother (book 2) who made me think of Mrs Bennett in the BBC TV adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Although Murder Most Unladylike was the first time I met the girls, such is the power of the writing that within the first 5 pages I felt like I knew them really well, even though I didn't. Daisy is a bit nutty, rather gung ho and at times a bit of a diva but it's because of how the other girls view her that she's able to find out information which proves crucial to the cases which she and Hazel set about solving. Okay sometimes it is more a case of Hazel going along with Daisy to try and keep her out of trouble; it meant a lot when Hazel knowingly broke some rules since she was fond of keeping them. 

It's a bit tricky to convey just how wonderful this series is, and how eager I am for book 3. I laughed a lot, but there is a surprising amount of suspense with the murder side of things. I had the shivers as the plot thickened, and believe me when I say the reality in who the murderer is was a total surprise and cleverly thought of. I'm stopping before this turns into an essay, (too late) but you absolutely must check these rereadable books which I can't wait to get return to and try spotting the hints about the various mysteries which are linked with the murders.

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