At Deepdean School for Girls, the children of the wealthy get raised to be proper ladies, but when Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong discover the murdered Miss Bell, some very unladylike actions are required. No one else knows about this covered up murder, so it is up to the Wells and Wong Detective Society to solve it. Taking after Sherlock Holmes and Watson, this pair uses a logical approach to figure things out, however a large portion of their information is gained by talking...not much escapes the notice of a school full of gossiping girls afterall. Hazel (the narrator) records everything in her casebook (the actual novel), including her own thoughts on the situation. Daisy is well-informed, and logical, but she is prone to rash actions, and is an incessant manipulator. Hazel on the other hand is more observant and intuitive, but she feels unsure of herself, partly because she is the sole Chinese girl in a school for the English. Both she, and the seemingly perfect Hazel, adapt to fit in, hiding aspects like their intelligence, and this is part of the reason they make such a good team...no one suspects they are up to anything. For the most part they cooperate and equally contribute, but their investigation does diverge at points because Daisy is so headstrong, whereas Hazel is open-minded. The mystery itself is a good one, and plausible for girls their age to solve. While they do gather physical evidence, motives and alibis are their primary means by which to scrutinize their teachers or dismiss them from their suspect pool. Stevens does not tiptoe around, murder is murder, and the reasons for doing it are not soft and fluffy; the tone is often serious, but also fun, in the adventure sort of way. This is just the first of their cases, and already these two have a promising career.
I loved this murder mystery set at an English boarding school in the 1930s (these are all some of my favorite things, so I was pretty much guaranteed to like this). The two main characters, Hazel and Daisy, each had very distinct personalities and balanced each other out well; the mystery was clever; and the world of the boarding school was well-developed and I finished the book eager to read more set in this universe. (Good news: it's a series opener!) Give this to girls who love the old-fashioned nature of Nancy Drew but are craving something a bit smarter and less dated.
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