Publication date: 5 June 2014
Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishers
Length: 288 pages
Age group: Middle-grade
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: ★★★★★
When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t.)
Then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She assumes it was a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove one happened in the first place.
Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?
Murder Most Unladylike has been all over my Twitter timeline and Goodreads feed for the past… God knows how long. I kept seeing it everywhere. Everyone I talked to, whether online or in person, loved it to bits and were eagerly awaiting the next books in the series. Which, to be honest, is quite rare. I rarely come across books that literally all my bookish friends and fellow bloggers love without exception. I was intrigued.
So, towards the end of my holiday earlier this month, I decided to pick it up and see why exactly they were so crazy about the Wells and Wong duo. And now, having read the book, all I can say is: I get it.
I grew up reading and watching mysteries (I think I’ve read nearly 40 of Agatha Christie’s books so far) so the fact that Stevens is a fellow Christie fan and was inspired by her work was a brilliant start already, even before I turned the first page. And then I stepped into Daisy and Hazel’s world.
And what a world it is! The story is set in an English boarding school back in 1934 – not only is this the perfect setting for a murder mystery, but Stevens does a fantastic job of giving her book an authentic 30s feel and making you feel like you’re actually part of this era.
With dozens of different boarding school terms and traditions (why on earth did we not have bunbreaks at school?!) and upper middle class language throughout the story, you really do feel like you went 80 years back in time. It’s one of the things I loved the most about this book, and I didn’t want Daisy and Hazel to leave Deepdean for the holidays when their adventure came to an end – I literally felt like I was leaving with them.
Speaking of Daisy and Hazel, I wasn’t a big fan of Daisy at first. Although Hazel is a great narrator, I found Daisy a bit annoying at first. The story does have a bit of Holmes and Watson (or Poirot and Hastings) feel to it, with Daisy being Holmes, and she was a bit too bossy and overconfident for my taste. However, they both grew on me soon enough and I just didn’t want their story to end.
Although I found certain clues and some initial parts of the mystery a bit predictable, the ending still took me by surprise. I didn’t see that coming!
Murder Most Unladylike is a delightful, refreshingly original story in a skillfully crafted setting which, even though it’s classified as a middle-grade story, would be perfect for younger and older readers alike. I’ve already bought books 2 and 3, so I can’t wait to find out what the Wells & Wong Detective Society‘s next case will be and how Daisy and Hazel’s story continues. Murder Most Unladylike really is a charming and brilliant read – I can’t recommend it enough!