Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Time for a Christmas mystery today with book five in the Murder Most Unladylike series, Mistletoe and Murder. These books are wonderful as, although they are a series, you can read them out of order without any real spoilers, so if you’re looking for a middle grade book for yourself or a child, this is well worth considering.
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).
The fabulously festive fifth mystery from the bestselling, award-winning author of Murder Most Unladylike.
As I mentioned, this brilliant series has the advantage of being able to read them individually as well as straight through. I’m going to read them all again in 2022 and review them as I go, but I jumped at the chance to read a Christmas special where there would be mince pies and real Christmas trees and… murder?
One of the things Robin Stevens really excels at is creating an atmosphere that you get completely absorbed by. I love the Murder Most Unladylike stories as they make you want to run around using phrases like “jolly gosh” just for your own personal amusement, but it goes deeper than that. I’ve said before that people underestimate the power that middle grade and young adult books can have on you as an adult, and if I was to provide any evidence for that, this series would be one of the first to spring to mind.
It doesn’t matter how old you are to enjoy these books. Yes the clues are clarified to make sure that any younger children reading understand what is going on – and frankly any adults too, who might have been reading with a lack of sleep – but that doesn’t take away from the mystery. The whodunnit and deeper “why” questions were well formed, well rounded, and well clever; I’ve read some adult murder mysteries that could take some lessons from Stevens on form. I honestly didn’t see the answer coming, and isn’t that what we all want from a murder mystery?
The extra layers to the story of the girls being sidelined for their sex serve as both a reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go as women. They see the clear differences in how the women are treated compared to the men, especially when they can still attend university but not get the qualifications, and you feel the frustrations of the women they meet as well as Daisy and Hazel themselves. Hazel has another barrier to contend with for being Asian, and the not-so-subtle racism she encounters is a brilliant reminder to anyone reading to be mindful, both of history and of the present.
I recommended this as a book to buy for Christmas this year for older children, but really it doesn’t matter how old you are. If you feel like you’ve read every cosy Christmas mystery going, then maybe it’s time to meet Daisy and Hazel – you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for stopping by today. I’d love to hear what you’re reading, whether it’s something festive or something murdery. Or both. I mean, neither is okay too, but I’d be a bit… disappointed? (Joking!)