Murder is Bad Manners: A Book Review

Hello!

As I explained last week, I’m using the weekends to catch up on all things blogging-wise until my school year wraps up. This change in schedule allows me to share a few extra posts throughout the month – like my thoughts on a cute MG mystery!

Murder is Bad MannersTitle: Murder is Bad Manners
Author: Robin Stevens
Published: April 21st, 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Genre: Middle Grade / Mystery / Historical Fiction
Source: Library / Hardcover
Series: Yes! Books Two and Three haven’t made it to the US yet {We American readers have to wait until April for book two, Poison is Not Polite}, but the mysteries seem to be a hit in the UK.

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? {Goodreads}

I love a good heist novel as much as the next person, but sometimes the best stories star not those committing the crime, but rather, those who solve it. While Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys have long been on fiction’s list of detectives, these sleuths are now joined by a younger bunch: Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, the two lively detectives of Robin Stevens’ debut, Murder is Bad Manners. What they lack in experience, the two girls of the Wells and Wong Detective Society consistently make up in their intelligence, friendship, and, of course, British charm, making this 1930’s-set mystery a stand-out among this year’s releases. This book was such a delight that I started and finished with a smile on my face; now, the only thing that would make me happier is if the American copies would hit bookstores faster {what can I say? I am a new fan}.

Hazel and Daisy’s first murder mystery is set at their English boarding school, Deepdean School for Girls, in 1934. While boarding schools are a frequently used setting in young adult and middle grade fiction, I have no reason to complain; when chosen with intent and developed well, the prep school setting acts as the perfect backdrop for thrilling adventures or investigations, as is the case here. Stevens spares no detail in “fleshing out,” for lack of a better term, the Deepdean environment, even adding a glossary of British school terms Hazel and Daisy use throughout the narrative at the end of the novel. Furthermore, Stevens doesn’t ignore the historical time period, using the opportunity to discuss racism – Hazel faces prejudice as a student from Hong Kong – and gender inequality, two topics that are just as relevant now as they were back then.

The supporting characters are important in shaping the mystery as well. The cast of characters ranges from fellow peers of Hazel and Daisy {I particularly liked their dorm mates, each of whom had a distinct personality} to the teachers of Deepdean School. The number of suspects is at first overwhelming, and I had difficulty keeping track of who had a motive, who didn’t have a motive, and who was working with whom. Nevertheless, the development of the secondary characters improves as Hazel and Daisy narrow down their suspect list, and the connections and backstories of each become clear by the final few chapters.

Most importantly, however, is the mystery: who killed Miss Bell, the science teacher at Deepdean? Hazel, the resident secretary of the detective society, takes careful notes that lead the reader on the same path as the two girls. In other words, only readers with keen eyes for detail will solve the mystery before Hazel and Daisy. It’s evident Stevens has a history in crime fiction; the red herrings are convincing, the logic is realistic, and the climax has the audience on the edge of their seat. As with any middle grade mystery, one does have to suspend their disbelief to fully enjoy the ending, but you’ll likely be so swept up in the fun that it won’t come up as an issue in your reading.

Murder is Bad Manners has a wide fan-base, and I’m not surprised as to why. Stevens masterly weaves modern themes, a historical setting, and the mystery genre to create a novel that engages its readers beyond the last page. I can call this book adorable, but I’m hesitant to call it “light,” for the murder fails in significance to the importance of friendship. I can’t wait for the next case {and etiquette guide :)} from the files of the Wells and Wong Detective Society. April couldn’t come soon enough.

Need more convincing? Here’s what other reviewers had to say.
“The mystery is exactly the sort I like. There are a lot of suspects, but they are limited to the people within the school. I was kept guessing and wondering, just as surprised by the girls at the outcome” {read the rest of the review at Random Musings of a Bibliophile HERE}.

“I quite enjoyed spending time with the young women, particularly since the short chapters are as addictive as popcorn. I stayed up late reading ‘just one more.’ It’s a twisty mystery that isn’t easy to figure out but rings true in motivations” {read the rest of the review at Comics Worth Reading HERE}.

“Cue Murder Most Unladylike which turned out to be so delightful, it was easy to suspend disbelief. It’s a blend of historical novel – set in the early 30’s in a boarding school for girls – and old-school detective novels a la Sherlock Holmes” {read the rest of the review at The Book Smugglers HERE}.

Have a lovely Saturday!

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8 thoughts on “Murder is Bad Manners: A Book Review

  1. […] Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens | “What they lack in experience, the two girls of the Wells and Wong Detective Society consistently make up in their intelligence, friendship, and, of course, British charm, making this 1930’s-set mystery a stand-out among this year’s releases.“ […]

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  2. […] To be fair, Robin Stevens’s first novel was published in the UK in 2014 as Murder Most Unladylike, but I, being an American reader, consider her a 2015 debut author all the same! :) Combining two of my favorite genres, Stevens proves herself a terrific crime fiction writer with the first Wells and Wongs mystery, Murder is Bad Manners. Young sleuths Hazel and Daisy had me laughing, cringing, and totally delighted as they solved the murder of their science teacher. Book Two couldn’t make its way over to the US soon enough. {review} […]

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