Arsenic For Tea (A Wells and Wong Mystery) by Robin Stevens
|Arsenic For Tea (A Wells and Wong Mystery) by Robin Stevens|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Hazel Wong is staying with her best friend (and President of the Wells and Wong Detective Society) at Fallingford. Of course, in the best tradition of English country mansions, it's not long before the two girls are called upon to solve a murder.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 338||Date: January 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
Some detectives have a dark and sorrowful past. Others are gifted – or burdened – with extraordinary skills, and a few are so intellectual they can barely relate to the people around them. But Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells, heroines of this delightful detective series, are just ordinary schoolgirls who enjoy solving puzzles and mysteries and who somehow end up right at the centre of the occasional deadly drama.
In this, the second volume, Daisy has invited Hazel to spend the Easter holidays with her family. So far, so normal: it's April 1935 and the two thirteen-year-old girls have lots of fun wandering around the shabby old house with its rambling corridors, decrepit tree-house and nearly-secret staircases. There's a doddery butler, a cheery maid and a cook who makes sure there's always plenty of food on hand when the young people fancy a bunbreak (they find they can't help using boarding school expressions at home, especially when two other girls from their dorm come to visit). But that apart, things aren't particularly straightforward: Daisy's family has more than its fair share of oddballs, including one adult with a mysterious profession, another who cannot resist pranks and lame jokes, and a third who doesn't quite get the difference between mine and yours. Almost immediately a cloud threatens the festivities for Daisy's birthday: problems and quarrels in the family escalate until there is a sudden death just as the surrounding countryside is flooded and the house is cut off from outside help.
There's a clever mystery here, with lots of suspects and a denouement that will take many readers by surprise. Clues abound, although they can be deceiving, and lots of twists and turns in the plot keep the story moving along at a spanking pace. Daisy and Hazel, the two founder members of the Detective Society, have to co-opt their friends Kitty and Beanie if they want not only to discover the evil-doer but also prevent the police making a terrible mistake and arresting a beloved member of the irrepressible Daisy's own family. But what really makes this book stand out is the picture of life in the 1930s it presents. Hazel, Vice-President and Secretary of the Detective Society and our narrator, is from Hong Kong and frequently has to put up with thoughtless racism from adults. She finds some aspects of life in an English country house quite incomprehensible, but she is an observant girl and does her best to record events as they occur. Despite her obvious gratitude at being befriended by a proper English girl she is not blind to Daisy's faults: her friend is headstrong and passionate, inclined to twist the evidence to fit her theories and overwhelmingly protective of her family. Daisy's desperately-felt anger and hurt as adults let her down and she learns uncomfortable truths about people she loves are vividly portrayed, and even Hazel soon finds she is less of an outsider in this family drama than she expected to be. It is a lively and thrilling tale, full of fascinating details, and the good news is that the third volume in the series is well on its way to publication.
If you happen to have missed it you'll want to read the first in this excellent series, Murder Most Unladylike. And if you've got the crime bug, there are plenty of young detectives out there, though most do their sleuthing in a more contemporary setting. For starters try Ruby Redfort: Catch Your Death by Lauren Child, Midnight Pirates by Ally Kennen and Laura Marlin Mysteries: Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John.
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