Tag Archives: boarding school

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

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wells1Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens, paperback novel, 322 pages, published by Corgi Books in 2014.

An English boarding school in the 1930s is the scene for a terrible crime. The science mistress, Miss Bell, suddenly disappears. Perhaps she left of her own volition, but third formers, Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells know better. Hazel saw her lying dead in the gym, but someone moved her body before she could fetch help. Luckily Daisy and Hazel are secret detectives, and now they are on the case. Can these girl detectives solve their biggest case or will they just land themselves in danger?

Amateur sleuthing in a boarding school makes for an interesting story. The mystery was engaging and well planned, with some great twists and complex suspects. It kept me guessing! I liked the writing style, and that Hazel shared her suspect list with us as she updated it.

Deepdean is an all girls boarding school, providing a comprehensive education for young ladies. Daisy and Hazel live in House with the other third form boarders, but they have a secret, they are running a detective society right out of their dorm. They are somewhat of an odd pair. Daisy is very outgoing, sporty, charming and well loved, the perfect English girl, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Hazel is from Hong Kong and is not really any of those things, though she is smart, persistent and pedantic. Daisy can be rather overbearing, and thinks very highly of herself, often discounting Hazel’s theories and ideas in favour of her own. Hazel is more levelled, and I preferred her careful deducting to Daisy’s headfirst charge after leads. They both displayed a number of virtues, complementing each other, making them perfect detective partners. I preferred Hazel as a character, though Daisy has her moments.

All of the characters were well described and easily pictured. The Headmistress was quite formidable! I pictured Miss Parker with hot pink, spiky hair, but I’m not sure that would have been an option in the 30s.

I was surprised by a Miss Marple reference during the story as most of the Miss Marple books were published after Murder Most Unladylike is set. Perhaps the beloved Miss Marple inspired the Wells and Wong Detective Society!

I greatly enjoyed this murder mystery. As soon as I had finished reading Murder Most Unladylike I went out and bought the next two books in the series, Arsenic for Tea and First Class Murder. I am looking forward to reading them and sharing them with my daughter.

Murder Most Unladylike is suitable for upper primary school and high school students. It will suit anyone who enjoys a nice clean murder mystery.

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Alice-Miranda at School by Jacqueline Harvey

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IMG_8590Alice-Miranda at School by Jacqueline Harvey, paperback children’s novel, 281 pages, published by Random House Australia in 2010.

Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones is a precocious seven year old who is starting at her new boarding school, Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies. There is something not quite right about the school though. The headmistress, Miss Grimm, never emerges from her office,  the school cook has never had a holiday, and the Gardner is not allowed to plant flowers. Alice-Miranda decides to set things right, but she must also deal with Alethea, the school bully, and a series of difficult and near impossible tasks set by Miss Grimm as an entrance test.

The Alice-Miranda series is written by the same author as the Clementine Rose series, but these books are longer and more challenging. While this book is probably best for middle primary school children, I decided to read this with my second grader, each of us taking turns to read. She was quite capable of reading it, but we did come across some words that were new to her. We took this as a learning opportunity and discussed these words, and then we looked some of them up in the dictionary. This didn’t diminish her enjoyment of the story though, and she has already begun reading the second book in the series by herself.

As Alice-Miranda is the only child of very wealthy parents who have spared no expense in raising their daughter, she had the potential to be a bit spoilt, and she is quite outspoken, so I expected her to be somewhat annoying, and ergo unlikable, but that actually wasn’t the case. She is very forthright and opinionated, but she was also intelligent, charming, interesting and confident, adventurous, charitable and kind. I found myself hoping that everything would work out for her as we read. The story is well written and interesting, with plenty of description of both characters and surroundings allowing for an immersion in the tale. I really liked sharing this story with my daughter.

Alice-Miranda’s future adventures are definitely on our to-read list!