Title: Murder Most Unladylike
Author: Robin Stevens
Age Rating: 11+
Star Rating: 5/5
There’s been a rather shocking murder at Deepdean School For Girls… From even just glancing at the slogan on the front cover, I was hooked. I picked this book up in my local Library a week ago, and I was intrigued by the mysterious blurb and lured into the first paragraph by the clever, witty and fast paced text. On reading Murder Most Unladylike, you can’t just read a page… you can’t just read a chapter. I could hardly put this book down at points – the story is so fast moving and mysterious and the description enjoyable and at times, humorous. Also, the bond, the author creates between the reader and the characters is extraordinary. Even from the first brief description of the two main characters – Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, I felt as I had known them for ages. The story is set in the 1930’s in a Girls Boarding School, and Daisy and Hazel belong to their own little private detective group (unknown to any of the other girls). Daisy is the Sherlock of the group and Hazel is the Watson (and the secretary), so in short, Daisy is the bossy one and Hazel is the quieter one. “That’s why it‘s so funny, it was me who found Miss Bell’s dead body…” Hazel reports in the detective groups casebook. The story is written in Hazel’s point of view as the case’s casebook notes. An interesting point of view. I think I prefer Hazel to Daisy – Daisy is more domineering and outgoing, whereas Hazel is quieter and sometimes kinder. Anyway, Hazel goes on to describe how on the evening of Monday 29th October she found the body of Miss Bell, below the balcony in the Gym, when she went back after lessons the get her pullover, which she earlier forgot. Again the description is so realistic and in depth, you could almost be there. Hazel, of course is horrified. The Gym was already a dreaded location, as mentioned a little earlier in the story, because of the apparent ghost which haunts the room: Verity Abraham, who committed suicide by jumping off the Gym Balcony. And now it was a murder location! And that is the intriguing aspect of the story… Hazel runs off to get Daisy, and when they return, the body has disappeared… Seemingly, the murderer has disposed of the body.
Daisy and Hazel immediately agree to investigate the mysterious murder. All of the adults are suspects. The girls agree it would have taken more strength than that of a mere student to push Miss Bell off the Balcony and dispose of the body. It seems the teachers are keeping Miss Bell’s murder a secret, or perhaps are not even aware of the crime, because instead of explaining her absence, merely, mark her elsewhere. Daisy and Hazel, on with the case, narrow the suspects down a little further to those who had the opportunity and those they saw near the scene of the crime at the time. And so, there are seven suspects: Miss Parker, Miss Hopkins, Miss Lappet, Miss Tennyson, Mamzelle, Mr MacLean, and Mr Reid (who the girls nickname ‘The One’.) Miss Hopkins is later crossed off the list, due to discovery of an alibi – she was apparently up in the Pavillion at the time of the murder, having a meeting with some students. Three of the teachers also have a motive, according to the two young detectives: Miss Parker – a jealous rage. Miss Bell was very close with ‘the One’ and Hazel and Daisy note she might have been slightly envious of her friend. Miss Lappet and Miss Tennyson (as well as Miss Bell when she was alive) wanted the deputy head mistresses job, and when it was very nearly given to Miss Bell, the girls thought one of the mistresses could have suddenly ‘flipped’. The others do not have motives, but they do not have alibis so they cannot be crossed off the list yet.
The girls go on to tick off more suspects, and then more crop up… and then other odd things begin to happen. It’s a guessing game for the reader from the start to the finish!
I thought Robin Stevens’ description of boarding school in the 1930’s was excellent. In reviews, this book has been compared to Malory Towers, but personally I can’t really see an immediate similarity. For example: Deepdean seems a more strict boarding school than Malory Towers, and the layout is quite different.
Highly recommend this book. Very enjoyable, indeed. I gave this book a five out of five for such an enjoyable and original story.
Can’t wait until the next Wells and Wong Mystery comes out – Arsenic For Tea. I think it is coming out early next year. On Wednesday, the weekly review will be posted, as usual, on Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome (my favourite Swallows and Amazons book!) Have a nice weekend.