Book Review ~ Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

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It’s a stroke of genius to take a murder mystery and set it in a boarding school. It taps into two very popular literary genres – I know that I am not the only person to have grown up reading boarding school books such as Malory Towers, and there’s no doubting the popularity of the murder mystery.

When I picked this up at the library, though I grabbed it from the children’s section, when I got home, I realised it didn’t have a sticker on it, and I couldn’t remember which age range it was written for. It’s definitely for children, but it’s written in such a way that it’s perfectly suitable for adults. Of course, that’s true of the vast majority of children’s stories, but it really struck me that Murder Most Unladylike is a mature book, written in the assumption that the children reading it can deal with the adult themes. That’s not to say that there’s anything in it that is unsuitable, rather that it treats its young readers as intelligent and mature.

The story is written from the perspective of Helen Wong, a young pupil from Hong Kong, and while Daisy is the driving force behind the detective agency, it’s Helen’s voice that gives us all of the details. In this, she’s the Watson of the story, a trope that is highlighted by Daisy and Helen themselves. It’s an amusing tale, written as a boarding school story from the 1930s, but from the perspective of a 21st-century writer, meaning that the casual racism that we get to hear about towards Helen is not entrenched in the writing as it would be in the tales that I loved to read as a child. There’s also some lovely moments that highlight the fact that not all teachers at boarding schools at this time were single women; one of the prime suspects in the story is gay, and her reason for being a suspect is that she was in a relationship with Miss Bell before her death.

It’s just a fabulously written story, full of the suspense and intrigue that makes a good murder mystery, but also staying true to the boarding school story tradition. I loved Murder Most Unladylike, and I’m already looking forward to reading the others in the series!

Murder Most Unladylike
Publication Date: June 2014
Corgi
Library Book

Book Blog Tour ~ The Dry by Jane Harper

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The worst drought to hit Australia in a century is already causing tensions to run high in Kiewarra, a small farming town that hasn’t seen rain for two years. Things become unbearable when a local family is murdered, and the only suspect is Luke, husband and father, who appears to have killed himself after gunning down his wife and son.

Luke’s childhood friend Aaron Falk is the protagonist who leads the reader through the story. As a police officer himself, he is drawn into the investigation into the family’s deaths, and his presence in his childhood home forces him to confront some of the lies and secrets that caused him to leave in the first place.

Through the clever use of flashbacks, the reader learns that Aaron and his father were implicated in the death of a teenage girl decades earlier, after she drowned and left a note showing only one word – their surname. This old mystery runs alongside the current investigation into the murders of the Hadlers, and though Aaron would rather leave the past in the past, secrets refuse to stay buried, and the two cases become intertwined.

The crime at the centre of the novel is a strong one, and one that will keep readers guessing. The oppressive feeling of returning to a place long consigned to memory is compounded by the heat of the weather; Aaron is struggling with his return to a community that effectively ran him out of town, and this feeling is emphasised by the brutality of the drought conditions. There is no respite from the weather, or the lack of weather as far as rain is concerned, and the pressure mounts throughout the novel as it becomes clear that this community is on the brink of total devastation.

The Dry is my first read of 2017, and it was a pleasure to read it. The film rights have already been acquired, and it’s obvious that in the right hands, this could be adapted to a taut and atmospheric crime thriller.

Friday

Book Blog Tour ~ Obsession in Death by J.D. Robb

When I was offered the chance to review Obsession in Death, I was made aware that it was the latest in a series, but I had no idea it was the fortieth instalment! J.D. Robb, who writes under a number of pen names (including Nora Roberts), is rather prolific, and these …in Death books are very popular.

The protagonist at the centre of this series is Eve Dallas, an NYPSD (New York City Police and Security Department) lieutenant. The story is set in 2060 (not something I was expecting), and follows Eve’s attempts to catch a killer. So far, so (relatively) normal as far as a crime novel goes, but Eve has a more personal connection to this particular case, because the killer is leaving messages at the crime scenes telling Eve that the murders are being committed for her. People who have wronged her are being killed, and all the killer seems to want is Eve’s recognition.

Despite being the latest in a very long series, it’s obvious that Robb writes her books to ensure that a new reader can pick up the strands of the storylines very easily. The case itself is a standalone story, and it’s a compelling one. I had no idea which way it was going to go until all was revealed! Eve is a well written character, though I can’t say I found her particularly likeable for most of the story. Maybe if I had read the previous instalments, I would have been introduced to her in a more gentle way, but here, she came across as quite hard, and unwilling to display any vulnerabilities.

The characters that surround her are much more engaging; her partner on the job, Detective Peabody, is engaging and fun, and I totally sympathise with her healthy eating woes. Dr Mira is a psychologist and profiler, and she is obviously a good friend of Eve’s. She’s definitely someone that I’d like to read more about in past books, and I understand she has a central storyline throughout.

Obsession in Death is exactly the sort of book that will appeal to newcomers to this series, and devoted fans. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t make it your first taste of the …in Death series, but I would imagine it’s even more enjoyable if you’ve read some of the previous stories.

Obsession in Death
First published: 10th February 2015
ISBN: 9780399170874
Piatkus
Review copy provided by publisher