Author: Robin Stevens
Series: Wells and Wong #1
Publisher: Corgi Childrens, Random House Children's Publishers
Date: June 2014
Source: Review copy from author
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Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia's missing tie. Which they don't, really.)
But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident - but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there's more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.
Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder 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, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?
If you put Nancy Drew in a boarding school, set it in the 1930s and sprinkle heavily with Sherlock references, bunbreaks and Cluedo, you’re getting close to describing the sheer charm that is Murder Most Unladylike. I absolutely adored Robin Stevens’ debut novel featuring the first case of the Wells & Wong Detective Society. As a warning, you will definitely want to read this book with a cup of tea and baked goods within arm’s reach.
And if you need more to sell you on this book, there is a map (!) of the Deepdean School for Girls and a cast list up front so you can follow along as the girls try to convince everyone their teacher was murdered and also solve the whodunit. Plus, the cover is gorgeously blue with striking graphics and typography and would look great on your shelves. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I love this book so much but everything about it is simply lovely.
The main girls are wonderfully likable and memorable. Popular girl Daisy Wells is full of confidence and bravado, president and leader with her shiny blonde hair and ease about life. You definitely want to be her friend, although sometimes her ego and determined attitude gets in the way of the truth. My favourite of the two was definitely narrator Hazel Wong, the thoughtful and quiet Watson to Daisy’s Sherlock and secretary of the society. She starts off a foreigner and outsider, but becomes Daisy’s closest confidant and her smarts and intuition eventually save the day. Their friendship was strong, and I loved that it wasn’t perfect, that they argued and disagreed. It made it feel more real.
The story is smartly written and read like a true detective story. The girls were very meticulous about solving the case, and the book shows glimpses of Hazel’s casebook throughout the story, with an updates on each piece of evidence and alibi carefully recorded within. It was clever, engaging, and best of all a very realistic way for two 13-year-olds to solve the mystery.
Basically, I can’t recommend this enough—it’s got friendship, mystery, intrigue—everything you want in a middle grade book that is thoroughly enjoyable for young and old alike. It will also introduce you to bunbreaks, the glorious mid-afternoon tea and cake time that I think should definitely be brought back into fashion. (At work. Everywhere.) I absolutely can’t wait for the sequel, Arsenic for Tea, for more of Daisy and Hazel’s adventures!