I’ve been hearing a great buzz about this book for quite a while – maybe I’m late to this party, but I don’t care. From the second I picked it up and a character was described as being a “Jolly Good Sport” I knew I was in for a fantastically fun read. Several “Corking” twists later, I was proven absolutely right. A Murder Most Unladylike is so much fun from start to finish.
Hazel Wong is a Hong-Kong born student at Deepdean School for Girls, a private boarding school in jolly splendid England, and her best friend is the fiercely clever, athletic and beautiful Daisy Wells, and the two of them are the only members of the very secret Detective Society, who investigate missing ties and stolen tuck boxes. The whole thing was spurred on by Daisy’s new found obsession with Sherlock novels, and proclaiming herself the brilliant Holmes, she drags Hazel as her Watson into a whirlwind of activity that accompanies anything Daisy becomes invested in. One night, though, before dinner bells, Hazel finds the body of Miss Bell, the school’s science mistress on the floor of the school gym, in a pool of blood – seemingly haven fallen from the balcony above. She rushes to tell Daisy and find a teacher, but when they return to the scene, the body is nowhere to be seen, and the two girls are chastised for creating such a fuss. When Miss Bell’s resignation letter turns up on the Head’s desk the following morning though, The Detective Society smells a mystery, and before you can shout “The game is afoot!” Daisy is pulling a stricken Hazel into a dark murder-mystery with zeal and excitement, delving into the secret lives of the Masters and Mistresses at Deepdean and uncovering all sorts of scandals along the way. Who had the motive to murder poor old Miss Bell, and who had the opportunity? Daisy sees the whole thing as a ripping adventure to be savoured and solved, but Hazel’s not so sure – Someone is dead, after all, and what if the murderer knows she saw the body?
What a ripping good yarn this book is, and a frightful mystery to tickle one’s brain! I think I spent two days doing my very best posh boarding school voice after I finished A Murder Most Unladylike, it’s so much fun to read that it seeps into your subconscious like that. Daisy and Hazel are brilliant lead characters, with Hazel being the obvious comparison to Doctor Watson, by being the books sole narrator, but also by being the level headed sidekick to the brilliant genius detective. Hazel is able to see the flaws in her universally adored companion, but never dares to argue with her. Daisy, on the other hand, is a force of nature – brilliantly intelligent, without being a teacher’s pet, and radiantly pretty, she represents the very quintessential English Schoolgirl. However, he confidence in her own abilities are fully capable of clouding her judgement, and her dismissal of Hazel’s ideas makes the pair wonderfully reminiscent of Daisy’s beloved Sherlock and Watson.
The best way to describe this book, is that it’s like an Agatha Christie mystery written by Enid Blyton – It’s hilarious at times, as well as a real brain teaser, as we slowly follow our heroines and how they unfold this mystery. It even has the suspects gathered together at the end, just like a classic detective story! It has great underlying lessons as well, though, of friendship and the power of being able to trust and rely on others, as well as showing our young characters that grown-ups aren’t as perfect, boring and flawless as they always believed they were.
A Murder Most Unladylike is a brilliant read, full of fun, fantastic nods to classic cosy crime novels, and with two vibrantly inquisitive protagonists who are an absolute joy to read about. I can’t wait for the sequel – Arsenic for Tea – Due out at the end of January 2015.
As always, thanks so much for reading!
P.S. You can pre-order Arsenic For Tea from Waterstones HERE.