Pros and Cons / Poison is Not Polite

Hello!Pros and ConsWhen it comes to my middle grade reads, I’m all about the mystery genre. From the fast-paced, high-action adventures of Spy School to the suspenseful, puzzling cases of The Red Blazer Girls, mysteries, I’ve found, are an easy cure for any and all reading slumps. Poison is Not Polite, the charming sequel to Robin Stevens’ Murder is Bad Manners, is the latest to join my long list of favorites, proving yet again that sometimes all a burnt-out bookworm needs is a good story with which to spend the afternoon. I wanted to sneak in a review before the month came to a close, but before I do, let me ask: what are you currently reading?

Poison is Not Polite

A tea party takes a poisonous turn, leaving Daisy and Hazel with a new mystery to solve in the second novel of the Wells & Wong Mystery series.

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 about Daisy after all—and she is furious. But Daisy’s anger falls to the wayside when one of their guests falls seriously and mysteriously ill—and everything points to poison. It’s up to Daisy and Hazel to find out what’s really going on.

With wild storms preventing everyone 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 begins to act suspiciously, the Detective Society does everything they can to reveal the truth… no matter the consequences. {Goodreads}

P R O S
Inspiring, distinct young sleuths The enthusiastic Daisy Wells and the inquisitive Hazel Wong are faced with quite the case: what to do when a dinner guest falls sick and dies? Anyone else would call the authorities, but Daisy and Hazel, detectives they are, decide to look for the truth themselves. Their friendship could be overlooked in favor of moving the mystery along were it not for Stevens’ talent in characterization; her main characters come off as a relatable pair of best friends, albeit a pair with a knack for solving cases, rather than the other way around.

A colorful and well-developed ensemble cast of characters Daisy and Hazel are joined by many family members and friends who have just as significant of a role in shaping the story: Aunt Saskia, who has a secret up her sleeve, Miss Alston, who doesn’t act like the governess she claims to be, and Lord Hastings, who has a fondness for bad jokes, among others. This eccentric ensemble plays a pivotal part in the mystery – they all have motives, only some have alibis – and their different personalities add yet another layer to the whodunit. Furthermore, though the number of characters first seems overwhelming, Stevens takes care to develop each supporting member with as much care as she does Daisy and Hazel.

An engaging, if somewhat predictable, mystery From the classic red herrings to the gloomy, anything-could-happen weather, this story is an homage to traditional mysteries à la Agatha Christie or Clue. With or without the well-written case, I could easily see budding detectives and avid readers devouring this book in one sitting, but even I found it hard to put it down once I was invited into Fallingford Mansion – a testament to the novel’s addictive nature if I ever saw one. In addition, what the mystery lacks in shock-factor is further made up with in its final scene, where Stevens brings the case to a realistic close while also setting the foundation for the next adventure of Daisy and Hazel.

An abundance of charm and humor As she does in Book One, Stevens weaves her trademark British charm throughout the narrative, a task easier said than done with such dreary topics as arsenic poisoning, sudden death, and old mansions. It’s a delicate balance to walk, but Stevens does it with little issue, writing from the eyes of Hazel in a case-book style. It’s a subtle technique, but the resulting, humorous quips are too charming to escape notice. For added smiles, Hazel shares British terms and phrases that may be unrecognizable to American readers in a glossary – it, in addition to the Wells Family Tree, is a delightful treat that only deepens my love for all things Wells and Wong.

C O N S
+ Use of a common setting and plot makes it less memorable than the first book Finally, the only area where I believe the book falters is in its memorability. Poison is Not Polite uses a number of common mystery tropes – too much? – that I fear it loses the impact of the first book. It’s a minor complaint in an otherwise excellent read, one that I’ve already begun recommending to friends. Meanwhile, I’ll be awaiting the release of the third book, First Class Murder; April couldn’t come soon enough.

Have the most wonderful Thursday!
Bella

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2 thoughts on “Pros and Cons / Poison is Not Polite

  1. […] Poison is Not Polite by Robin Stevens | “With or without the well-written case, I could easily see budding detectives and avid readers devouring this book in one sitting, but even I found it hard to put it down once I was invited into Fallingford Mansion – a testament to the novel’s addictive nature if I ever saw one.” […]

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