Murder Most Unladylike (Wells & Wong Mystery 1) by Robin Stevens

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Murder Most Unladylike (Wells & Wong Mystery 1) by Robin Stevens

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Murder mystery set in a girls boarding school in the 1930s. It's great fun with a twisting turning plot. It's like a cross between Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie. Anyone who enjoys school stories will love Murder Most UnLadylike.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: June 2014
Publisher: Corgi
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0552570729

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How do you solve a murder with no body when nobody even realises that a murder has taken place?

Such is the task facing the Wells & Wong Detective Society - Deepdean School's most secret society. Society Secretary Hazel Wong found mistress Miss Bell's dead body in the gym. But by the time she returned with President Daisy Wells, Miss Bell's body had disappeared. It's the first decent case the Society has had - who really cared about Lavinia's Missing Tie? - and Daisy has at it with gusto. Hazel follows along at a slower pace but with, it must be said, a great deal more attention to detail. Of course, school life continues unhindered and Daisy and Hazel must conduct their investigation while avoiding Latin prep and lacrosse practice, and enjoying midnight feasts and buntime biscuits.

Who did kill the poor science mistress? Could it have been Miss Parker, the teacher with whom she used to share a flat? What about Mr Reid? After all, Miss Bell had been seen canoodling with him. Or perhaps Miss Hopkins - the pretty games mistress who is the most recent recipient of Mr Reid's canoodles. Perhaps it's all about love gone wrong. As the suspect list grows and the plot thickens, bossy Daisy forms the theories while cautious Hazel does the scrutiny. Despite a few tensions, these two do make an irresistible team.

But what on earth happened to the body?!

Oh aww. I loved this school story. Even though it is set in the 1930s and is chock full of Blytonesque midnight feasts and hockey games, it does bring the genre up to date with a contemporary sense of genuine peril and danger. It feels both delightfully old-fashioned and current - a difficult balance to pull off, but it's been done with style here. Imagine Agatha Christie visiting Mallory Towers and add in some modern sensibilities and you are about there. For example, Murder Most UnLadylike also covers casual racism - Hazel is from Hong Kong and has had a harder than expected time fitting in at Deepdean - and low level bullying in a very practical, non-judgemental way. Many of the tropes of the school story genre are subtly updated throughout the book and I really appreciated how cleverly it was done.

The plot twists and turns like nobody's business and I didn't guess the real culprit for a very long time, but the real draw is the relationship between the two main characters. Daisy and Hazel are like chalk and cheese but they are perfect foils for one another and together, they make a brilliant detective duo. They bicker but always make it up in the end.

This is one for all the many readers who love a good school story. Murder Most UnLadylike isn't a good school story, however: it's a flippin' great school story!

For another super murder mystery set between the wars, you could try Johnny Swanson by Eleanor Updale.

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