The penultimate Detective Society mystery sees our intrepid duo, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, return to Deepdean School after an absence of several months, to find that the school hierarchy has shifted sufficiently to disturb their equilibrium.
They are welcomed with delight by their dorm-mates and additional society members Beanie, Kitty and Lavinia, but much to Daisy’s consternation she is no longer the darling of the school. That position has been claimed by new arrival Amina El Maghrabi, for whom Daisy’s former acolytes cannot perform any service too small. Understandably, Daisy is sent into a moody depression by this turn of events whilst trying to maintain her customary appearance of nonchalance. However, she cannot hide her true mindset from loyal and kind Hazel, who recognises that Daisy needs school to remain constant as she struggles with her personal feelings, and does everything in her power to cheer Daisy’s mood.
With the tension building as the 50th Anniversary Weekend celebrations approach, when Daisy and Hazel’s parents will be conspicuously absent, it is almost a relief for the girls to find themselves once more in the midst of a murder investigation! This time the very survival of Deepdean School for Girls depends on their sleuthing abilities.
On the Friday morning of the celebratory weekend Beanie witnesses a man appearing to strangle a woman on the crest of a distant hill. By the time she summons the other girls to the dorm window, the suspect is nowhere to be seen and the usual school subterfuges have to be employed to enable a Detective Society investigation. The adventure is afoot, and the chain of events that follows held me gripped until the end.
I don’t want to say any more about the engrossingly complex plot for fear of giving away any clues or plot spoilers. However, once again Robin Stevens has crafted an entertaining murder mystery, filled with vibrant characters, false leads and subtle clues. I read in an article that Robin Stevens got the idea for the initial murder scene whilst sitting waiting for a train at Bath Spa and gazing at the hillside in the distance. I sat on that same platform many times as a student (a very long time ago) which makes this particular book even more special to me!
I also love that enclosed within the highly entertaining detective story we are given an insight into the personal challenges facing the main protagonists. Daisy’s family has been torn apart by the scandal that took centre stage in Arsenic for Tea and she has suffered a blow to her self-esteem as her prestige at school has been tarnished. Hazel is also coming to terms with her family’s behaviour and scandal recounted in A Spoonful of Murder. Beanie has suddenly grown into her intellect and has to cope with family illness, Lavinia must get used to her new-found status as a tennis ace and her Dad’s brash girlfriend, and Kitty is suffering the teenage plight of owning “embarrassing” parents and an irritating younger sister! All of these issues are handled sensitively by the author, in a way that is likely to spark recognition and reassurance amongst her readership.
As a series of books to “read for pleasure” from the age of roughly 9+ I highly recommend the Murder Most Unladylike series. They have entertained a member of my own family right through primary school and she is already looking forward to the final book which will be published shortly after GCSEs end this summer. You can read my short reviews of the earlier books in the MMU series here.