Book Review – Murder Most Unladylike

About

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Murder Most Unladylike is the first book in a series of the same name, written by Robin Stevens. It was published in 2014 and currently holds a 3.96 on Goodreads.

1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up a secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find a truly exciting mystery to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t.)

But 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 has happened in the first place before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally).

But will they succeed?

And can their friendship stand the test?

Genres: Middle Grade / Historical / Mystery

Format Used: Physical Book

Length: 350 pages

My Rating: 5/5

From My Reading Challenge:

  • A physical book
  • A book someone bought for me

My Thoughts

I first heard about this book through the WordPress book bloggers grapevine. I ended up throwing it on my TBR, even though in general, I’m neither a Middle Grade nor Mystery reader. But something about it attracted me, so I gave it a shot after receiving it for Christmas. My reaction surprised me — I honestly had no idea that a middle grade mystery could have so much intrigue and be so fun! I had a blast reading this. It was a really neat experience. When I was in middle school, I went through an Agatha Christie phase (I still look back on that confounded), but this book triggered nostalgia in me that I didn’t even realize I had.

The story is written through the POV of Hazel, who makes up one half of the Wells and Wong Detective Agency. She is the main character of the book, but in her own life, she’s Daisy’s sidekick; her Watson (a point Daisy is happy to make again and again). But after discovering a dead body, Hazel finds it more and more difficult to let Daisy run the show. Especially since Daisy is being dismissive of Hazel’s completely valid points. Solving the mystery puts their friendship to the test, but more importantly, it teaches Hazel the value of standing up for herself.

I loved Hazel’s backstory and how it informed how she acted and the choices she made. Having just arrived at the English boarding school from Hong Kong the previous year, she’s still learning how to navigate foreign waters and, at times, ignorant people.

Daisy can be really insufferable sometimes, but I suppose, given what happened my first night at Deepdean, I shouldn’t be surprised.

She goes on to describe a heartbreaking incident of bullying, whereby she is repeatedly referred to only as ‘foreign girl,’ and is coerced into a trunk.

Today, I can’t think how I could ever have fallen for it. But at the time I was simply excited to think that I might be making friends already – and that someone so beautiful should want me to be friends with her. So I nodded.

I think a lot of readers who may be outsiders in their own right, for any reason, can relate to Hazel. That right there is a priceless reading experience. To make matters better, we get to see Hazel grow into herself, and find her voice. It definitely tugged at my heart strings.

And, of course, there’s also a murderer on the loose, and a full cast of suspicious characters with their own goals and motivations. Following the girls follow the clues kept me glued to the pages. It’s a little hyperbolic and, of course, the big reveal does ask you to suspend your disbelief a little. However, I think that’s just a conceit of the genre and part of the fun.

Selected Quote

I spent the rest of the morning feeling as though I was trying to be in twenty places at once. Shadowing one person, let alone four, is an unexpectedly sweaty business.

Who Might Like It

I would recommend this book to: anyone who likes a good, old fashioned (literally) British mystery. That it’s middle grade fiction hardly takes away from that.

I would not recommend this book to: Fans of crime fiction who are looking for gore and thrills. This book is for a younger audience, so you won’t get any of that.

My Rating

I have implemented a standard rating system to my book reviews:

1 – Story, plot and character development are all poor

2 – Concept is intriguing but execution is sloppy or does not deliver on promises

3 – Story, plot and/or character are interesting but some aspects of the book are problematic and/or not fully developed

4 – Strong story, plot and character development but has little-to-no thoughtful commentary

5 – Strong story, plot and character development along with thoughtful commentary

I give this book a 5. I’ll definitely pick up the next Wells and Wong Mystery the next time I want to just shut off and have a good time.


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