Murder is Bad Manners
By Robin Stevens
Paperback, 307 pages
2015, Simon & Schuster
Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells have their secret detective club, but until Hazel finds the dead body of one of their teachers in the gym, the pair has never investigated anything as serious as a murder. When they try to alert someone of the body, they return to the gym and find it go. Now they must not only solve the murder but prove it even happened.
I heard about this book over at Richard’s Book Nook and bought it straight away because it’s a middle-grade murder mystery set in the 1930s and I can’t think of anything more perfect! I’m not even sure if he’s read it yet, but I loved it.
First, let me mention the cover, because, hello, it’s lovely! I love the color scheme and the graphic style and the fun fonts. Had I seen this in a store, I never would have been able to resist taking it home with me that day.
Hazel Wong narrates the story – this is her second year at Deepdean School and she is the secretary of the Wells and Wong Detective Society. Hazel is smart and a sincere friend to Daisy, despite Daisy’s tendency to take advantage of her friend and be a total prat at times (though at least Hazel is aware of this!) I wasn’t keen on Hazel being so down on her self-image, but it’s not hard to imagine an eighth-grader from China feeling like she doesn’t fit in with a bunch of English girls.
Daisy Wells is headstrong, clever and smart, though she is careful to hide her intelligence because no one likes a brain and she often finds it useful to glide under the radar. She’s beautiful, popular and manipulative, especially with Hazel, but in the end, she proves that she values their friendship and Hazel’s devotion to Daisy brought me around to her side.
The plot kept me guessing as we learn about the various teachers at the school and the alibis the girls seek out for them. In hindsight, if I’d really given it thought, I could have figured out who the murderer was, but I was content to ride along with the girls and no one jumped out at me until the story revealed it.
I loved the 1930s boarding school setting (please tell me I’m not the only one who used to fantasize about boarding school as a kid) and it was interesting to read about some of the prejudices Hazel faces because of her Chinese heritage.
I look forward to the next book in the series and I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a fun murder mystery (yes, murder can be fun? I mean, like, not real murder of course! But there aren’t a lot of gory details!) and an overall light, but engrossing read.