Keywords: fiction, murder mystery, female protagonist, 1930’s England, diary fiction, detective novel, boarding school, first book in a series.
Wow. Wowie wowie wow. I absolutely loved reading this book!
Look, I know that I say that in pretty much every book review, but I mean it: this was one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read all year! The plot was engaging, the characters were interesting…it was all so wonderful!
First, let’s talk about the main character: Hazel Wong. Despite how she speaks about herself sometimes, she is so clever and strong. Thankfully, she becomes able to see just how great she is by the end! This book is a casebook (which is pretty much a diary) written from Hazel’s perspective. We learn a lot about her: how she feels like an outsider at Deepdean School for Girls; how homesick she is for her family in Hong Kong; even how overshadowed she feels around her friend Daisy. (But more on that later!)
Hazel is Chinese which, in 1930’s England, makes a lot of people treat her strangely, even disrespectfully. The book doesn’t shy away from the racism Hazel faces. It handles it with care, presenting the racist characters as undesirable. Hazel speaks of her emotions about this unsavoury behaviour. She often feels saddened, angered, and like an outcast. However, she remains strong and soon, she finds people who like her for who she is!
Enter Daisy Wells, Hazel’s best friend. She’s as clever as Hazel yet far more impulsive. Where Hazel is careful and nervous, Daisy is headstrong and confident. Honestly, I didn’t like Daisy that much at the beginning. I thought she was a bit spoiled. Also, she is occasionally mean to Hazel without realising it. By the end of the book, though, Hazel helps her grow into a better person and vice versa. This is not only a book about murder; it’s also a book about friendship.
Oh, by the way, this is a murder mystery book. Sorry, I got a bit carried away talking about the characters! Anyway, Hazel and Daisy form a Secret Detective Agency. They’re the only members and they’re both enthusiastic detectives like Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson. When a teacher is murdered in their boarding school, the detectives search for clues and try to solve the case. I will not tell you too much, but let’s just say that there are MANY twists and turns in the plot!
As for the writing style, there are quite a few lovely words to learn. Since the story takes place in the 1930’s, Hazel uses slang terms from that time. The definitions of each word can be picked up from context. For extra help, Daisy has written a glossary at the very end of the book! Some of my favourites are ‘bunbreak’, ‘shrimps’ and ‘view-halloo’!
All in all, it’s an excellent book! And good news: it’s the first in a series, so there are many more to read! I’ve already bought the second and third books and I honestly can’t wait to read them. Because of its engaging mystery and historical setting, mystery-loving Millie and historian Dmitri recommend Murder Most Unladylike.