Tag Archives: Robin Stevens

Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens

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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.

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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.