The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
|The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: Fast, frenetic and gloriously funny, this is a highly recommended murder mystery!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: January 2015|
|Publisher: Piccadilly Press|
|External links: Author's website|
When the seven schoolgirls at St Etheldreda's School for Young Ladies in Victorian Ely see their headmistress and her brother drop dead at dinner, they're more concerned about their future than the loss of the two adults. Knowing that if anyone discovers what's happened they'll be sent home to families who don't want them, they launch a daring plan to cover up the sad news, and run the school themselves. When the deaths turn out to be caused by poison, though, they're left not just trying to run a school and convince an alarming number of visitors that nothing's wrong - but also to solve the murders before there's another killing.
If I didn't know this was the work of Julie Berry, I'd have guessed it to be a venture into children's fiction from playwright Alan Ayckbourn. The sense of farce which drives the best of his plays is central to Berry's fabulous story here, as is the speed at which events develop (two bodies on the first two pages mean it hits the ground running and never slows down.)
I really enjoyed getting to know the girls - there's a commendable amount of characterisation given the size of the cast - and while some, particularly Smooth Kitty and Disgraceful Mary-Jane, get more time on the page than others, they're all well-written characters, as are the numerous other suspects. The use of the adjectives before each girl's name frequently throughout the book is interesting on two levels - firstly it reminds us early on who's who; secondly it plays with expectations, as the girls develop and we see that there's more to each of them than just that description.
It's also a thoroughly intriguing mystery which I didn't solve (well, I came close to working out whodunit, but having had about seventeen guesses I don't think I can really claim that puts me into the running as a budding Sherlock Holmes!) Despite not getting the solution correct, I thought that there were enough clues that I probably should have been able to figure it out - Berry definitely plays fair with her readers here.
All in all, a massively entertaining, high-spirited romp. Definitely recommended; I'll keep a close eye for future books for this age range from Julie Berry!
For another humorous mystery story, don't miss Murder Most Unladylike (Wells & Wong Mystery 1) by Robin Stevens. The sense of fun here also shines through in two of my other favourites for this age range last year, The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson and The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry at Amazon.com.
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