24 Great Books in 2016: Day Eleven

Before I start this post, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who’s been stopping by. As a new blog, it means a lot, so thanks!

Today’s book is the fifth in the Wells and Wong series of mysteries by Robin Stevens. This is a series that has just got better and better as it goes on, and I hope there are many more adventures for Hazel and Daisy to come!

mistletoe-and-murder

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea-rooms – but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College.

Two days before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. At least, it appears to be an accident – until the Detective Society look a little closer, and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).

Before I start this review, I should probably point out that I was practically brought up on school stories. I started with St Clare’s, moved on to Mallory Towers and finished at the Chalet School, with a short stop in Trebizon. I loved them. In fact, I still love them and own a complete set of Chalet School books in one form or another. So, although I am now a 37 year old woman and not a schoolgirl, you can imagine my pleasure at hearing about a new school series set in the 1930s, complete with murder mysteries. I was a little disappointed by the first in the series, but every book since then has shown how Stevens’ writing has grown, and Mistletoe and Murder is the best yet.

One of the best things about this book is the way it explores racism and sexism without bashing you over the head with it, and in a way the younger readers this is aimed at will be able to understand. Hazel Wong is from Hong Kong, and Stevens doesn’t shy away from showing how Hazel is treated by those who don’t know her (and some of those who do), because of her race. Even Daisy, Hazel’s best friend and co-protagonist, sometimes carelessly makes racist comments, and because the book is written from Hazel’s point of view, we get to feel as Hazel feels. It’s brought into particularly sharp focus by the book’s setting at Cambridge, and the introduction of two characters from India, the elder of whom, a student at the university, is consistently treated as lesser by his peers. It is also made clear that the female student who is charged with looking after Daisy and Hazel is also seen as less able, less clever and less important than the male students. Stevens’ skill at weaving these ideas into the book is brilliant.

There is, of course, a plot involving murder, but I’m not going to tell you about that, because why would I spoil it for you? I am astounded at how Daisy and Hazel seem to attract murder, although at this point, I’m not sure they’d know what to do with themselves if someone didn’t die in suspicious circumstances! But then, I’m not sure I could deal with the series ending right now, so that’s a good thing. I love the world Robin Stevens has created, and the characters she has filled it with (Daisy’s relationship with her older brother is particularly wonderfully written, and one of my favourite parts of the series). I can’t wait for the next book!

5/5

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