Tag Archives: crime

Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens

Standard

Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens, paperback novel, 333 pages, published by Corgi Books in 2015.

In the second Wells and Wong Mystery, Daisy and Hazel are spending the school break at Daisy’s home, Fallingford. It is Daisy’s birthday and her mother is throwing her a tea party to celebrate. For the weekend of the party, family members and friends arrive to stay with the Wells’. Then a guest is suddenly taken ill and dies, so Daisy and Hazel begin to investigate, but could a family member really have committed a murder?

After reading the first book in this series, A Lady Most Unladylike, I knew I would need more Daisy and Hazel in my life. Though Daisy sometimes calls Hazel ‘Watson’, and likens herself to a young female Sherlock Holmes, their adventures remind me much more of Miss Marple and her knack for being in the right (or perhaps wrong) place and time to solve a murder. These books are like Agatha Christie mysteries for children, and they are fabulous!

In Arsenic for Tea, we are introduced to Fallingford, Daisy’s home. We get to meet her parents, brother and household staff. The setting felt authentic to the era (1930s England), and there was a handy map of the house at the start of the book, including where everyone was sleeping. It was a step back in time, to when children slept in the nursery and were watched over by a nanny or this case, a governess. When families dressed formally for dinner, were waited upon by servants, and the doctors made house-calls as regular practice.

The characters were also realistic, with each character being described in great detail. I liked the mystery uncle, who knows Daisy so well, but is keeping secrets. And her somewhat bumbling father who keeps forgetting things, but is jolly and loveable. Though, of course, Hazel and Daisy are the best characters! Their dynamic is engaging, but I just have to roll my eyes at Daisy’s behaviour; she sometimes forgets how intelligent and capable Hazel is. Daisy might be the head of the detective agency, but she definitely needs Hazel to keep her in check at times, and make sure the case is progressing productively. They are both very bright girls, and I love that they are putting their brains towards solving such interesting mysteries. I think it also highlights that girls can be and do anything they put their minds to, even if society frowns upon those choices. Be brave, break boundaries and be who you are or who you want to be. I’m resisting the urge to write “Girl power!”, but now I’ve gone and done it 🙂

Stevens writes a lovely mystery, with twists and secrets, at a great pace, keeping the reader enthralled until the very end. I really enjoyed the interplay between the family members and how Daisy reacted to the possibility that her family housed a murderer. The household being cut-off by heavy rain heightened the tension and strained relationships, creating even more drama. I also like how the covers for this series have been done. They are clean and clever, very appealing.

Upon completion of Arsenic for Tea, I went straight on to read the third book in the series, A First Class Murder. I am introducing my ten year old to the Murder Most Unladylike series, hoping that she will love them as much as I do.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Standard

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.

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

Standard

theleavingcoverThe Leaving by Tara Altebrando, paperback novel, 421 pages, published by Bloomsbury in 2016.

Eleven years ago six kindergartners disappeared without a trace. Now five of them are back with no memory of where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing since they left. They have arrived with a few clues, but is it enough to discover their past? And what happened to Max, the child that didn’t make it back?

The cover of this book is awesome. I knew the first time I saw it that I wanted to read it. I do have a tendency to pick up books based entirely on their covers, and this one is perfect. Luckily the story was also pretty awesome, though I thought that the ending seemed a little rushed.

The Leaving was a mystery with elements of science fiction. It was difficult to put down once I started, and I finished it quite rapidly. It was told from the perspectives of three characters, Scarlett and Lucas, two of the taken, and Avery, the little sister of Max. I liked this split in the narrative, as I got to see how things were developing from both sides of the equation; from those who have no recollection and must re-adjust to families and a life from before, and from one that was left behind and had to deal with the fall-out of The Leaving.

Tidbits of information and clues were doled out slowly, building suspense and intrigue. I did manage to work out some of the answers prior to them being supplied, but not everything. The explanation of why and who felt too brief after such a long time developing. However, The Leaving is still a very good book that I recommend to lovers of mystery and crime.

Interesting characters added to the satisfaction of reading The Leaving. Despite not remembering anything about themselves, I still got to know Lucas and Scarlett quite well, as they got to know themselves. I’m not sure I really liked them though, same with Avery. I actually found her to be a bit whiny and self-centred, she just kept thinking about those flip-flops! But perhaps if I had been just holding things together for my family for the past eleven years, when everything had been about the missing Max, perhaps I would want to focus on myself for a while too. I felt sorry for her. The weight on Avery’s shoulders was greater than it should have been at that age, but that doesn’t explain her lack of empathy for her friend Emma and boyfriend Sam. I also couldn’t understand Adam’s lack of enthusiasm in discovering his past.

The Leaving is suitable for middle and upper high school students and beyond. I am now interested in seeing what else Altebrando has to offer!

 

 

 

Weeping Willows by S. B. Rose

Standard

28333619Weeping Willows by S. B. Rose, e-book, novella, 50 pages, published in 2015.

Suzie Edwards is an English major at college, living with her best friend, Melly. When Melly disappears, her boyfriend Craig is the prime suspect. Suzie is still waiting for news of her friend when her parents die suddenly. Are the two incidents related?

Weeping Willows is a quick read with a nice premise. The story has potential, however, the writing requires a lot of polishing. It was riddled with errors, and for some reason my copy was missing quite a number of ‘l’s, especially the second ‘l’ in words like Melly or chilling. This is probably to do with the conversion of the file, but I found it very annoying. There were some grammatical errors as well, but many of the mistakes were one word misplaced for another, such as ‘winching’ instead of ‘wincing’. It interrupted the flow of the story, and is evidence of a lack of editing. Spell-check is simply not enough. I think an extra draft or two could really make a difference here.

I usually like mysteries, but I found myself drowsing whilst reading this. The blurb sounded exciting, but it didn’t reach my expectations, it was only something to pass the time. I didn’t connect with any of the characters, and therefore had no investment in what happened to them. There wasn’t any suspense, and I was disappointed that Suzie didn’t even try to escape her fate. She was a weak and annoyingly boring character. I’m also a little confused about the start of the story, as Suzie remembers something from her childhood that seems to have no bearing on the rest of the story. There was no explanation as to how her family went from poverty apartments to a wealthy neighourhood, perhaps I missed the importance of that.

Weeping Willows is suitable for middle high school students and up.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

 

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Standard

IMG_37131Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick, paperback novel, 392 pages, published by Simon & Schuster in 2014.

Britt Pfeiffer has convinced her best friend, Korbie, to backpack through the Teton Ranges in Wyoming for the spring break of their final year of high school. The girls have very little experience hiking through the ranges, but Korbie’s parents’ own a large cabin on the shores of a lake in the mountains, which they can use as a base for their adventure. The weather turns foul as they journey up the mountain, forcing them to abandon their vehicle and seek shelter from the driving snow. Sodden and fatigued they find salvation in a small cabin in the forest, where two young men are also waiting out the storm. For two pretty and exuberant girls, it should be fun to shack up with two handsome lads like Mason and Shaun for the night, but the boys have plans, and the girls are at their mercy. Britt finds herself fighting her way down the mountain through the dark and swirling storm, surrounded by dangers both environmental and human.

Elements of adventure, mystery, suspense, and romance are intertwined in this captivating young adult novel. Black Ice was a sled ride through the mountains, full of twists and dark turns, that kept me guessing. There were some well written action sequences, with plenty of teenage deliberation and introspection, and some non-graphic romantic scenes. It was an exciting read with palpable tension, that I blew through quickly as I needed to know what happened next.

The characters were all rather bratty and entitled, and I greatly disliked Korbie and her brother, Calvin. It seemed incongruous that Britt would be friends with Korbie, but they had been friends for a long time and it is often hard to let those relationships go. I liked the way that Britt developed as a character through the story. From reliance on the men in her life while taking them for granted, she grows to be a more resourceful, strong and independent leading lady. This traumatic experience strengthens rather than unravels her, always good for a female protagonist. Mason was a very complicated, yet intriguing character which many moods and secrets. He could have gone either way for most of the book, while Shaun was obviously derailed and dangerous. The shallowness and selfishness of several of the characters served to highlight the complexity and intensity of Britt and Mason.

Being a young adult novel, plenty of teenage issues were touched upon, relationships, first love, kissing, physical and emotional insecurities. This helps to shape the novel into something that teenagers can relate to, and it seems to be endemic in this genre. While the sexual elements of this book were quite tame, there was violence and death that may disturb more innocent or immature readers.

Black Ice is most suitable for middle to upper high school students and beyond.