Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers / Corgi Children’s
Published: April 2015 / June 2014
Genre: middle grade, mystery, historical fiction
Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)
But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.
Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, best friends and co-starters of several societies at Deepdean School for Girls, are smack dab in the middle of a murder case before the rest of the school realizes what’s happened to two of their teachers. Hazel discovers Miss Bell, the science teacher, dead in the gym, and Daisy launches an investigation by starting up the Wells and Wong Detective Agency. By listing suspects, motives, and gathering evidence, the girls seek out ways to prove teachers’ innocence, and are on the right track to sniffing out the murderer when another teacher winds up dead. Soon, the murders seem too real to the girls, and their friendship is stretched thin.
Daisy liked rushing headlong into things and triumphing, and I liked waiting
and thinking — but why should that make her right and me wrong?
If you want a good middle grade mystery for a young Holmes or Marple in your life, look no further. This has that classic Doyle or Christie feel, and the characters — Hazel, in particular — are so well-rounded I felt like I was in school with these girls in 1930s England.
Daisy and Hazel occasionally let their emotions guide them to their conclusions, but they conduct their investigation like a detective would: writing down possible suspects, sniffing around for evidence to cross suspects off the list — rather than pinpointing a person and blindly ignoring evidence that suggests otherwise — sneakily discover information by creating diversions or running off somewhere in the school late at night, and even confronting the criminal when they’ve finished their work. What’s extra wonderful is that the girls solve the basic part of the mystery halfway through, and quickly realize they’re not necessarily wrong, just that there was more to it than they expected, and they continue the investigation before bringing it to the police’s attention.
That’s not to say the murder doesn’t bother them. Daisy tries very hard to see the crime as something in her detective novels, but there’s a scene in here where she buries herself under a pile of coats (kind of like a comfort tactic) and admits to Hazel they may be in over their heads. Hazel is bothered by the case from the get-go, having seen the victim firsthand. Several middle grade mysteries lack this haunting psychological element, so I was very happy to see Stevens write this into the story. It was also refreshing to see the friends work hard together, but still have some bumps along the road that tests their friendship. There are moments when Hazel’s “otherness” gets in the way as well, and I liked how she handled these situations.
A satisfying ending that works as a standalone and a promise for more (and I know there’s more — the perks of watching UK books come to the US!). I’m thrilled I read this book! I can’t wait to read the other adventures Daisy and Hazel experience!
This qualifies as book #6 in my resolution to read 10 library books in 2015.