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Murder Is Bad Manners (A Wells & Wong Mystery) Paperback – April 26, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—A cozy murder mystery with manifest charms, this series opener introduces a pair of boarding school sleuths covertly detecting a death no one else realizes has occurred. Narrator Hazel Wong, a sturdy Hong Kong transplant, and charismatic English Rose Daisy Wells forge a friendship based on their mutual deception of their classmates, concealing their abundant intelligence during lessons and instead deploying it in the service of the Wells & Wong Detective Society. Thought Hazel adopts the lingo of the native students, her pleasant, frank narration displays her outsider status, a perspective that helps guide readers through the logistical and social nuances of their 1930s British countryside school. The mystery proves a twisty but conventional story replete with concealed relationships, professional jealousy, and genre-bound clues. Fresher and more compelling is the tension between the two detectives. Even as the friends remain bonded in cleverness, Hazel develops a conscientious concern for students and staff along with anxiety at tracking a murderer; her caution sparks conflict with Daisy's gleeful curiosity and unperturbable confidence. A recent spate of boarding school settings means this novel shares some DNA with several 2014 offerings, especially Julie Berry's puzzler, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (Roaring Brook), a spiky story that flaunts its affectations. But Stevens's engaging tale shines with the reflected charms of its detecting duo, a winsome combination of thoughtfulness and relish.—Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"A skillful blend of golden era crime novel and boarding school romp, with a winning central relationship between plump, anxious Hazel, a new girl who has arrived from Hong Kong, and the super-confident blonde English rose, Daisy Wells. The novel works well both as an affectionate satire and an effective mystery story. . . . Top class." (Suzie Feay Financial Times)
"Satisfyingly unpredictable. I did not guess the whodunit. Ripping good fun." (Alex O'Connell The Times of London)
"Friendship, boarding school, and a murder worthy of Agatha Christie." (The Bookseller)
"Really cleverly done and unexpected for what I thought would be a straightforward whodunit caper." (Melissa Cox, Head Children's Buyer at Waterstones)
"Reading Murder Is Bad Manners is like drinking cocoa by a fireside: It is warm and witty and deeply satisfying." (Katherine Rundell, author of ROOFTOPPERS and CARTWHEELING IN THUNDERSTORMS)
"Murder Is Bad Manners lured me in with a charming British voice, and then, just as I started to get cozy, snap! I was trapped in a serious mystery problem. Robin Stevens develops her girl detectives with a light, deft touch and delivers denouement with a flourish." (Nancy Springer, author of the Enola Holmes series)
“Robin Stevens's MURDER IS BAD MANNERS is what I wish every mystery could be: a perfectly-plotted puzzle told in a deft and charming voice. The story is a brilliant mixture of classic detective work and contemporary humor—I enjoyed every page!”— (Jonathan Auxier, author of The Night Gardener and Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes)
"Stevens’s engaging tale shines with the reflected charms of its detecting duo, a winsome combination of thoughtfulness and relish." (School Library Journal)
"[H]ighly enjoyable bunbreak reading." (Shelf Awareness)
Top customer reviews
Murder is Bad Manners is the American version of a middle grade novel originally published in England as Murder Most Unladylike. Author Robin Stevens has published two more titles in the Wells & Wong mystery series, but we Americans are going to have to wait patiently for the American release of the second book.
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are students at the English Deepdean School in the 1930s. They have decided to form a detective society, and as the story begins, their cases have been relatively unremarkable. However, when Hazel inadvertently stumbles across the body of a teacher in the gym, Daisy is excited about the prospect of an actual case. But when the body disappears, the girls know there is something sinister afoot. The teachers are all acting suspicious, and almost everyone has a motive. Are Daisy and Hazel getting involved with something larger than they can handle?
Hazel serves as narrator, and she is the more insightful of the pair. Daisy is a clever girl, but she is very impulsive and so convinced that her deductions are correct that she dismisses any other possibilities. This causes a great deal of resentment on Hazel’s part, especially since she rarely confronts her friend. Daisy also seems to consider the entire affair to be a game; she forgets that real lives are at stake.
Hazel also offers a unique perspective. British boarding schools were fairly homogenous in the 1930s. It wasn’t considered odd for boys to be sent away,
but a girl from Hong Kong is somewhat of a rarity. While the other girls are generally kind to Hazel, there is a general sense of casual racism, and on occasion, more overt slights. Hazel seems to bear this burden rather stoically. Hazel is extremely clever and astute, and although she is a stranger in a strange land, she manages to find friendship at school.
This was an absolutely amazing book. I have always loved boarding school stories- especially British boarding school stories. Mysteries are another favorite of mine, so a combination of a jolly good boarding school story and a mystery? Just divine. If I had one complaint, it would be that the American version has changed some of the vocabulary. There are also explanations for some of the unchanged school terminology, and this was a bit of a distraction, considering that there is a glossary at the back of the book.
I would absolutely recommend Murder is Bad Manners. This book is best suited for children in the later years of elementary school and older. This is a very fun book; although Daisy and Hazel are clearly the protagonists, there is a coterie of girls in the dorm who are also loyal friends. The mystery was satisfying, and I am eagerly awaiting the release of the next two books and the opportunity for Daisy and Hazel’s next two adventures!
I emphasized the above because I hate it when publishers change titles and make it a chore to collect a complete yet unduplicated set of a favorite series. Moreover, the first Wells & Wong book is so good it is likely you will try to find others.
This book is an entertaining and satisfying combination of a boarding school story, an Agatha Christie style mystery, an historical mystery, (the book is set in the 1930's), and a friendship tale involving two remarkably different but equally appealing girl detective/heroines. Our narrator, Hazel Wong, plays Watson to Daisy Wells' Sherlock, but while Hazel is somewhat in awe of Daisy she is no second banana. Unusual for such a book, Hazel's narrative is conversational and a bit diffident, but bolstered by a keen eye, a touch of an edge, and surprising insight. English rose Daisy is a more complex character, sort of a Russian doll type of character, and effortlessly holds the reader's attention.
The era and the boarding school environment are authentically rendered. There is not a lot of authorly heaving and grunting as the scenes are set. The time and place and the little details of school life just naturally flow through the book. This is not one of those books in which it appears that the author is consulting note cards to make sure that all of her historical research is being included.
The mystery, as you might expect, isn't terribly elegant, but the girls' detecting is honest, their reasoning is rigorous, the solution is satisfying, and there are only a few convenient coincidences or chance discoveries. There is a fair amount of spying, sneaking, and brazening it out, which are played for fun. Classic mysteries are terribly difficult to write. Classic mysteries for middle grade readers, who can be literal and unforgiving, may be even harder to write. This one scores high style and fairness marks.
All of that said, though, I come back to the two heroines. Distinct, and distinctly different, they make a fine and appealing team. Their association, (it isn't necessarily a "friendship" as such), makes sense, and is much more nuanced than seems usual for a book like this. Of course there is some action and some suspense and a bit of danger, but the story always comes back to and revolves around these two interesting characters - how they cooperate, how they react to each other, how they react to events, even how they deal with the world. That's what distinguished this book for me, and that might appeal to others as well.