I’m pretty sure that I first heard about this one from the Book Smugglers – Ana living in England could of course read this before me here in the U.S. Brandy at Random Musings of a Bibliophile and Karen at Ms. Yingling Reads have reviewed it as well. It’s another older middle grade title that we keep in teen at my library.
Murder is Bad Manners: a Wells and Wong Mystery by Robin Stevens. Simon & Schuster, 2015. Originally published in the UK by Corgi as Murder Most Unladylike, 2014.
The year is 1935, the setting Deepdean, an English boarding school. Our narrator is Hazel Wong, fairly recently arrived from Hong Kong and still the only not white girl in the school. She is unlikely friends with the charismatic and popular Daisy, whom Hazel thinks of as “the perfect English Miss”. Only Hazel seems to notice the melancholy that hides under Daisy’s cheerful façade, and notices that Daisy hides her intelligence to know just the right amount of what’s being tested to pass. And Daisy’s acceptance of Hazel keeps her from being shut out of all social life at the school.
So Hazel is willing to follow wherever Daisy leads, even when she’s into something that Hazel finds boring, like spiritualism a month or two ago. But Daisy’s most recent club is a Detective Club, and they quickly turn from investigating rumors and gossip to murder when Hazel sees the body of an unpopular teacher in the gymnasium, clearly dead – and then missing before she can run for help. Their detective work will lead them to secrets among both the students and the staff of the school…
This is a great one for mystery fans both kid and adult, though do note that the opening scene with the body of the teacher is pretty graphic. There’s nothing really explicit after that, though – just references to teachers “canoodling” – and there’s something so very appealing about boarding school mysteries. Hazel, new to the system herself, is perfect for introducing readers to it. Her matter-of-fact acknowledgement of the casual racism around her adds to the story without feeling strident, and it’s clear that there is much more to Hazel than just the new, out-of-place student at school. So much fun, and I’m very much looking forward to more of this series!