Release Date: August 21, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia's missing tie. Which they don't, really.)
But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident - but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there's more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.
Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder 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, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test? (courtesy of Goodreads)
Before I headed to the UK last November, I looked up some of the popular books that hadn't been published in the US yet. One of my favorite podcasts, Adventures With Words, which is hosted by a British couple. Kate from the podcast highly recommended Murder Most Unladylike as one of the best middle grade reads of 2014. I was intrigued, so eagerly picked it up. The book came out in 2014 in the UK and will be published in August 2015 in the US. The name has been changed to Murder Is Bad Manners in the US. I don't see why a name change is necessary but I'm glad American readers will have the opportunity to get this book.
The story is set in the 1930s in a British boarding school. Hazel, our narrator, is from Hong Kong. Her parents wanted her to have a proper English education. Daisy, the leader of the detective agency is an English rose. She's perfect in every way. The students love her. The teachers love her. She's part of the aristocracy. She's pretty. She's confident. She's smart. Hazel idolizes her and is amazed that Daisy wants to be friends with someone as unworthy as her. Meanwhile, Daisy often appears to like Hazel only because of that idolization.
The relationship between Hazel and Daisy troubled me with its disparities. However, it did feel realistic. I was much more of a Hazel than a Daisy as a kid and would have welcomed the opportunity to be best friends with someone I admired, even if that friend made it clear we were unequal. Thankfully, Hazel does gain a backbone as the book goes on, and her relationship with Daisy evolves. While I appreciated the change, it did feel a bit contrived and too quick. It's really the only criticism I have of the book. But still, I loved Hazel and like Daisy better as the book goes on.
One of my favorite parts of this book is that it's about a murder. It's not something like find the missing class bunny and (slight spoiler) Miss Bell doesn't pop up alive at the end of the book. The book assumes middle grade readers are capable of reading about kids solving a murder. It's actually a fairly bloody book in the sense that multiple people die. Never graphic, of course, but it doesn't skimp on the seriousness of the nature.
The mystery unfolds really well. Hazel and Daisy are adept detectives. We get to walk through how they include and exclude various suspects and handle all the clues that come their way. This first investigation of the Wells and Wong Detective Agency is a learning process though. They have to figure out how to be objective and not discount or make assumptions about people they like or dislike. They also have to learn how to work as a team. Best of all, I was completely surprised by who the killer was and how it all unfolded.
I can't wait to read the next Wells and Wong book. I'll have to grab it from Book Depository since I unfortunately don't have plans to go the UK any time soon. This is a fun middle grade that readers of all ages will enjoy.
Recommendation: Buy - I went to another continent to do it!
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