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The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

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There's a murderer on the loose—but that doesn't stop the girls of St. Etheldreda's from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda's School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.

368 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2014

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Julie Berry

25 books2,251 followers

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5 stars
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,498 reviews
Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,365 followers
October 24, 2014
Super cute! The plot is more-or-less a game of clue, but more MG-like, with a large cast of funny, resourceful, and charismatic young girls.

Much like its cover, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is intriguing and fun with a touch of humour. We begin by being introduced to the girls with the help of some illustrations and a quick look into why they were sent to St. Etheldreda's School for Girls. I had the ARC so the illustrations were sadly missing, but the cover accomplished the same and it was fun to have a visual to go with all these great personalities. Then shortly after, we have the death of the headmistress and her brother, leaving the girls to solve a mystery while trying to hide the events from the townsfolk - which proves to be quite the challenge in such a small town full of nosy neighbours and visitors.

While the plot is not especially hard to predict, the characters are what makes this entertaining. The girls range from tween to early teen, giving us an MG novel that is still a great read for adults. Plus, the novel is set in a time where kids that age seemed much older, married much younger, and had to be a lot more independent at a young age. So while they're very young, they're intelligent and capable, free of the usual angst and dramatics you might have expected otherwise. And do they ever have personality! I loved how quirky every girl is. They all bring something to this story: some with know-how that end up being very useful, others with rational thinking and social abilities to deal with the many dilemmas encountered. In addition, most of them have a sense of humour that proves to be the perfect touch to keep this novel from getting even a hint of a dark tone. The vibe is kept light-hearted and overall amusing throughout. Even adding in a sprinkle of romance now and again. The downside to having 7 girls as main characters, however, is that you're unlikely to find yourself connecting with them on a personal level - just keeping track of everyone can be a challenge - but it's not meant to be a deep, emotionally charged story at all so this doesn't become a major issue.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the historical setting which is built to perfection. The atmosphere Julie creates is excellent; the descriptions of the girls, the dialogue, and especially the dynamics of the town truly breathes historical life into this novel.

An adventure full of character and charm, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is as much about the mystery itself as it is about the friendship between these young girls. Nothing forms a tighter bond than covering up a murder together!

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for review.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for monica kim.
202 reviews6,070 followers
February 6, 2021
3.5 but rounded up - a cute and cozy time! i loved the girls and honestly would have loved a series. would have been great to have some diversity in this story though tbh, it’s v white and straight.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 29 books5,627 followers
March 9, 2017
An absolutely delightful Victorian farce in which a group of Victorian schoolgirls attempt to conceal the death of their awful schoolmistress and live in a sisterly utopia . . . and must therefore deal with the nosy neighbors, angry creditors, hopeful suitors, and suspected murderers who descend on them. Laugh-out-loud funny as well as tender, it made me wish my nickname was Smooth Kitty!
Profile Image for ✦BookishlyRichie✦.
639 reviews1,038 followers
December 29, 2020
Dark, witty, ominous, twisted, and absolutely hilarious!

This was most definitely giving me Agatha Christie meets Arsenic and Old Lace vibes and I loved every moment of it. I do have to say that this was tad slow and there were romantic bits that didn't feel necessary to me, but what made up for that was that this was an amazingly entertaining read. I fell in love all 7 of these viciously twisted girls and was sad that this came to an end. This is also a murder mystery and I thought that part of the book was executed magnificently. I did not see any of that coming. If you've been meaning to pick this up, please do so and I'd highly recommend reading both the audio book and the physical copy at the same time like I did. It made the reading experience 10x better. Jayne Entwistle was the perfect narrator for this book. :) - Richard

Profile Image for Melki.
5,785 reviews2,340 followers
April 27, 2023
The seven attendees of a decrepit girl's school are stunned when the school's headmistress, AND her awful brother croak at the dinner table, obvious victims of some poisoned veal. Rather than involve the police, and risk being split up and sent home to unwelcoming relatives, the girls decide to bury the bodies in the garden, and continue to keep calm and carry on.

And, yet . . . the mystery remains . . . just who did kill those dreadful people, and why?

This was a disappointment. I honestly expected to love this one even more than Berry's Wishes and Wellingtons trilogy, but twas not to be. In fact, it didn't take long at all for me to reach the point where I was only reading to find out whodunnit. The entire first half of the book deals with little more than the girls' attempting to keep a multitude of visitors from discovering their little ruse. This was a slow-moving, repetitive slog. The tale does pick up toward the last third, and there's a satisfying ending, so, bravo there.

The other thing that annoyed the heck out of me was the unflattering adjectives at the beginning of each girl’s name - Stout Alice, Pocked Louise, Dull Martha - which describes either their appearance, or personality. As the names were assigned to them by others, one would assume that as the girls gained confidence and independence, they would be eager to rid themselves of these horrid monikers, but, no, the names continue to the end of the book.

It all combined to make this one an unpleasant, unhappy reading experience. You can just call me Grumpy Melki, I guess.
Profile Image for Ksenia.
787 reviews192 followers
March 31, 2014
Dear Julie Berry: Thank you for writing this book. Thank you for writing such a fun and sassy story about girl friendship and mystery. Thank you for making all the girls actual friends, despite their differences. And thank you for writing such a romp of a tale! I loved every word of this book.
Profile Image for Robin Stevens.
Author 52 books2,097 followers
February 28, 2015
Deliciously dark and brilliantly farcical, I do love seeing nice girls get mixed up in murder!
Profile Image for Eli.
270 reviews25 followers
June 18, 2014
THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD is a good read. I just don’t think it’ll be particularly successful with it’s target audience.

The first thing that irritated me was the face that there’s an adjective in front of each girl’s name, every time their name is mentioned in the narrative. It gets old after just a short amount of time, and it’s really the only way you can differentiate the girls. I never ended up remembering whose name belonged to who, I just remembered them by their adjective. If you’re going to have a lot of character, all of them need to be fleshed out to the extent their position as a main character or supporting character allows. Julie Berry just didn’t do that for me in THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD.

The second thing that was disappointing to me here was the premise itself, really. These are what–eighth grade girls? Not even that. They just saw their headmistress and her brother drop down dead in the middle of a meal, and these girls want to bury them and go on living like nothing ever happened? There’s no sense of compassion or humanity or what’s for the best. They’re immature at best, and any thought of telling anyone what has really occurred is glossed over in a matter of seconds.

Those two things really turned me off from this book, and I don’t think that it’s slow narrative will appeal to middle-grade girls in the first place. However, there’s a lot of great Victorian themes here and I loved the way the girls had such a sisterhood with each other. Their friendships and banter was enjoyable also. There’s a lot of research that goes into a book like this, and Berry has definitely delivered on that account. I can definitely see this appealing to certain readers, but as a whole it just didn’t do it for me.

If you’re into the Victorian era or hoping to get into it, I would suggest this book–but only at a certain point. There’s certainly dry parts to THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD, but as a whole it is not entirely unenjoyable and is an entertaining read, but one I would give to middle schooler’s with caution. 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,399 reviews463 followers
April 13, 2022
Shades of Annie's Adventures and The Mysterious Howling

Ridiculous and fun. A group of boarders at a Victorian finishing school conspire to hide the bodies when their headmistress and her brother drop dead suddenly. It's a romp. They solve the mystery and all the girls who are old enough meet proper beaux, and everyone who is still alive in the end lives happily ever after.

There are a few moments when the silly plot and the seriousness of death rub uncomfortably against each other, but mostly it's just a hoot.

Recommended by the Offspring and me.

Library copy


I enjoyed it even more this second time.


Even better the third time. Fun fact: I mentioned to the kid that I had read this again "not too long ago." That's was 5 years back. Time is fake.
Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,895 reviews196 followers
April 8, 2018
There is no greater accolade one can give a novel than to say that it kept you up to the wee hours of the morning, devouring the thrilling storyline. Cliché? Of course, but in this case too true. (I’m pretty sleep deprived as I write this.)

When the irascible and cold headmistress of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls literally drops dead at Sunday dinner along with her dissolute, sponging brother, the finishing school’s seven pupils dive into action to both preserve their school — and to investigate who wanted widowed Constance Plackett and her brother Aldous Godding dead. Each of the girls — Smooth Kitty Heaton, Stout Alice Brooks, Dear Roberta Pratley, Dull Martha Boyle, Dour Elinor Siever, Disgraceful Mary Jane Marshall and Pocked Louise Dudley — and even their intrepid Spaniel pup, mischievously also named Aldous — play a part in solving the mystery, relying on their various talents and proclivities. Equal parts farce and thriller, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place will make readers relish every page. Author Julie Berry expertly captures the exact tone of voice of a Victorian “horrid novel” (what we’d call a Gothic novel nowadays) while portraying seven girls who, despite everything, are willing to risk it all to stay together as a family. The many twists and turns make this novel the best sort of roller coaster ride. Highly, highly recommended.

And for those of you lucky enough to enjoy The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place as an audiobook, Jayne Entwistle’s narration positively lifts this book to new heights. I just wish I could give it six stars!
Profile Image for AH.
2,005 reviews370 followers
January 11, 2015
Initial Thoughts: The girls at The St. Etheldreda's School for Girls find themselves in the unlikely position of being on their own after the poisoning of their headmistress and her brother. The story is both charming and amusing and written in the style of the historical period. The girls work together to solve the murders and while I kept thinking of Scooby Doo in my head, they did work out the details rather nicely. I found myself chuckling at some of the situations.

The Review:
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is both a charming and humorous book about seven young girls who reside at St. Etheldreda's School for Young Ladies.

If you love historical novels with a touch of humor and silly situations, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is definitely a worthwhile read. Written in the style of books from the turn of the 19th century, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place follows these seven girls as they work to keep the school open following their headmistress' unfortunate death.

During a Sunday dinner (at which the girls were to serve the meat, but not eat any of it), the headmistress Mrs. Plackett and her brother suddenly die at the dinner table. The girls are shocked at first, however they quickly figure out that if they call the authorities, they will be disbanded and sent either home or to another school. The girls hatch a plan where one of the girls Alice would masquerade as Mrs. Plackett and each girl takes on a responsibility to keep the school running. The girls take care of the bodies, burying them outside the school. Meanwhile, life continues (as well as social engagements booked by Mrs. Plackett prior to her demise). Some hilarious situations arise.

The girls quickly realize that the killer is still out there and that Alice may be in danger, especially if the killer thinks Mrs. Plackett is still alive. The girl work together to figure out who is the murderer. At this point, I was reminded a little of Scooby Doo, but I like Scooby Doo, so all's good.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place was an entertaining book to read. Those girls were brilliant! Highly recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for a review copy of this book.
March 2, 2015
I loved this book. It was delightful, from beginning to end. I was searching for how to classify it, and in the afterward, Ms. Berry mentioned the term, British Farce. And that's what this is. I am all for Girl Power, and this book is very much about girl power and the bond between girls/women. Not only is this a sisterhood bonding story, it's also a bit like Oceans Eleven, one of those caper-type stories where you have a disparate group of individuals who are thrown together under a common bond. I'd call these girls the Scandalous Seven. You have Dear Roberta, Dull Martha, Pocked Louise, Dour Elinor, Stout Alice, Disgraceful Mary Jane and their de facto leader, Smooth Kitty. Each girl brings a different characteristic to the book, and I loved each and every one of them. I just wanted to give them all a hug (even Elinor, whose obsession was death was a little bit disturbing at times).

Such a dark subject, a double murder at a quiet ladies school. However, Berry handles it with a deft touch. Instead of spending too much time dwelling on the horror of the girls' predicament, the reader is focused on how these girls react to it and take measures to prevent their sisterhood from ending prematurely. I like the way they work together, and despite the typical occasional squabbles among young women, they look out for each other and validate each other.

I loved the humor. It was mostly subtle, but sometimes laugh out loud. It reminds me very much of British comedy with some British mystery thrown in.

There is a nice dose of romance, because, well they are young women, and romance is often a factor. However, the youngest, Pocked Louise, could give a fig for boys. She's our resident sleuth, and a very smart sleuth she is and she thinks boys are foul. The other ladies, all seem to find guys who prick their fancy. Even Smooth Kitty, who thinks she's got everything all figured out. It thought it was so funny how big a flirt Disgraceful Mary Jane was, and a very unrepentant one at that!

I have been quite stingy with five star ratings lately, but I can't talk myself out of giving one for this book. I am very thankful to Olga Godim for bringing "The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place" to my attention. It was scandalously good!
Profile Image for Aleshanee.
1,410 reviews97 followers
June 30, 2016
"Eine skurrile Krimi-Komödie mit viel schwarzem Humor"

Genauso ist es, denn diese Geschichte hat so viel Witz und einen so bezwingenden Charme, dass man gar nicht mehr zum Lesen aufhören kann. Zu Beginn bekommt man schon die Hauptdarstellerinnen auf eine sehr eigentümliche Weise vorgestellt:

Roberta "Liebenswert" Pratley
Mary Jane "Ungeniert" Marshall
Martha "Einfältig" Boyle
Alice "Robust" Brooks
Kitty "Schlau" Heaton
Louise "Pockennarbig" Dudley
Elinor "Düster" Siever

Diese Beinamen behalten sie auch während der Geschichte bei, was anfangs etwas gewöhnungsbedürftig war, aber dadurch konnte ich die Mädels auch von Anfang an sehr gut auseinander halten. Durch eine gewitzte Vorstellung mit ein paar Sätzen über die Familien der Mädchen erfährt man auch, warum sie sich diesen Spitznamen verdient haben.

Alle sieben gehen auf das St. Etheldra Mädcheninternat in dem kleinen, englischen Städtchen Ely im Jahr 1890. Ohne großes Vorgeplänkel stehen sie dem Tod ihrer Schulleiterin und deren Bruder gegenüber, doch statt dass sie die Polizei benachrichtigen, beschließen sie kurzerhand, die Leichen verschwinden zu lassen. Schließlich könnten sie dann tun und lassen was sie wollen und hätten endlich ihre Freiheit und wären keinen gesellschaftlichen Zwängen unterworfen.
Aber schon im nächsten Moment klingelt es an der Haustür und von da an kommen den Mädels unentwegt Schwierigkeiten in den Weg, die ihren Plan jederzeit auffliegen lassen könnten.
Außerdem kämpfen sie noch mit dem Verdacht, dass eine von ihnen für den Tod der beiden Erwachsenen verantwortlich sein könnte - oder noch schlimmer: der Mörder draußen frei herumläuft.

Unglaublich erfrischend geschrieben und dem Stil des 19. Jahrhunderts angepasst. Julie Berry schreibt aus der auktorialen Perspektive, lässt aber zwischendurch auch mal die Gedanken des ein oder anderen Mädchens einfließen.

Die Mädchen sind (schätze ich) zwischen 12 und 16 Jahre alt und es ist ein wahres Vergnügen sie dabei zu beobachten, wie sie mit Verstand und einer großen Portion Glück versuchen, den widrigen Umständen auszuweichen. Sämtliche Steine werden ihnen dabei in den Weg geworfen und sie kommen kaum zur Ruhe, um einmal zu verschnaufen.
Dabei kommen auch ihre vielseitigen Ambitionen zum Tragen und so müssen sie sich im Nachweisen von Giften, Vortäuschen falscher Tatsachen und Ermitteln kriminalistischer Spuren beweisen, dass ihnen auf eine höchst reizende, und mit schwarzem Humor getränkte Weise gelingt.

Zum Schluss muss ich das Cover noch erwähnen, denn nur deshalb bin ich auf diese fantastische Geschichte aufmerksam geworden. Es strahlt genau das aus, was man im Buch erwarten darf: eine Bande zu allem entschlossener junger Damen, die in ihrer Improvisationskunst zu allem bereit sind, um zusammen zu bleiben.


Eine wunderbar unterhaltsame Geschichte über sieben Mädchen, die um jeden Preis ihrer Familie fernbleiben wollen, denn diese haben sie bei sich selbst gefunden. Mit viel Witz und Charme haben sie mein Herz erobert und ich bin sicher, dass sie das auch bei jedem anderen Leser schaffen werden. Ein Highlight für mich und ein absolutes Lesevergnügen!

© Aleshanee
Profile Image for Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard.
1,143 reviews246 followers
May 19, 2022
Okay why was this so funny and cute and dark?

I just loved this concept. Your head lady at your finishing school drops dead over dinner and you don't want to be slip up from the girls at your Finishing School because you love them so you cover up the murder while also investigating it and suddenly you have visitors at your place every hour and then someone dresses up as dead head lady. There wasn't really any huge laugh out loud moments but the overall tone and the characters were just so fun!
Profile Image for Olga Godim.
Author 12 books71 followers
January 12, 2015
This quaint novel tells a story of a British boarding school in the end of the 19th century. But saying that and only that would be a gross simplification. The story is also a murder mystery and a farce, a historical and a study in character interactions.
One day, seven teenage girls, the students of St. Etheldred’s School for Young Ladies, witness their schoolmistress and her brother keel dead during their weekly Sunday dinner. Why did they die simultaneously? Were they murdered? Why, how, and by whom? And most importantly: what is going to happen to the girls? For various reasons, none of them wants to go back home. To avoid such a fate, they concoct a convoluted scheme to conceal the unfortunate deaths and pretend that their schoolmistress is still alive. And they plan to investigate her suspicious demise.
Only inexperienced children, together with Julie Berry, their author, could ever come up with such an outrageous plan, and of course, everything goes awry. Unexpected visitors arrive on their doorstep, one after another, asking awkward questions and demanding to see their mistress. Money problems unfold. Robberies happen. Lies pile up. Obviously, covering up a double murder is not for wimps.
Still the girls persevere and almost pull it off. Despite their internal squabbles and petty rivalry—and what company of seven teenage girls could exist without those—they manage to work together fairly well. They wash clothes and bury corpses, solve murders and confront problems, always supporting each other along the way.
The plot gallops, with new complications arising hourly, according to the Murphy’s Law. Such a tale would be ridiculous without humor. Fortunately, there is plenty of it. Not hilarity but mild amusement accompanies almost every page.
The characterization is superb; every girl is different. Each has a distinctive personality and appearance, her own doubts and faults. The marvelous cover art and inside illustration by Iacopo Bruno contribute to the feeling that the girls are alive, a bunch from a local high school production rather than a genuine historical novel.
A delightful read, well thought of and well executed. Definitely recommended.

Profile Image for Dear Feely.
102 reviews7 followers
January 1, 2023
“The shopkeepers in their aprons, the tradesmen in their boots, and the housewives with their caps and babies were an invigorating sight. They proved the world was more than seven maidens, two corpses, and a puppy.”

The young ladies of St Etheldreda’s school for girls find themselves facing a perplexing problem when their headmistress and her odious brother drop dead at dinner one night. Their immediate reaction is that of most of us, I feel. They plan to bury them in the garden and carry on living together rather than go back to neglectful families and not a single biological sister to share their experiences.
It was a challenge, getting to know seven different girls of the same relative age, but the adjectives in front of their names help immensely throughout, as well as adding character to the book itself, and by the end I had a distinct knowledge of each of their personalities and temperaments. The writing didn’t miss a beat, which I’ve come to expect from Julie Berry, and while I guessed at the main plot twists (hence the 4 stars) it was incredibly entertaining and besides the first chapter, which I perused last week, I read it in one sitting! If you’re looking for a quick, fun younger YA read set at a boarding school and featuring a colorful found family cast and a tantalizing murder mystery, definitely check it out.
Profile Image for Saleh MoonWalker.
1,801 reviews272 followers
July 12, 2017
زمان داستان در دوران ویکتوریایی هستش که یه سری رفتار خاص از خانم ها مورد انتظار ��ود و خانواده های زیادی شرایط سختی رو تحمل می کردن تا دخترشان را به مدرسه های خارجی بفرستند.
خواندن کتاب ابتداش سخته چون داستان هفت دختر مختلفه و به خاطر سپردن اسم هاشون و شرایط زندگیشون کمی سخته اما با گذر زمان، شناختن شخصیت ها ساده شد و داستان با سرعت مناسبی پیش رفت. پلات اصلی راجع مرگ غیر منتظره ای در زمان شام در مدرسه هستش.
توصیفات زیبایی داشت و از ابتداش تا انتها افت چندانی نداشت و زیبا پیش میرفت. سرعت پیشرویش هم مناسب بود.
Profile Image for Susana.
988 reviews243 followers
October 5, 2015
3.5 stars

Arc provided by Mcmillan's Children Publishing Group through Netgalley

Release Date: September 23 rd

A very important fact that readers should know before starting reading this book:
The story is told as a complete farce. I mean..literally speaking!
(somehow that little bit, escaped me completely while requesting this story. I blame it on the pretty cover.)

So, if like me, you're more used to only having "bits of it" thrown in once in awhile, you're due for a different reading
Also..a very important question...
Do you like farces?

Conceptually speaking, this deserves a five star rating.
This is a witty, original,intelligent, and well developed story....
So why didn't I enjoyed reading it, more than I did?

While this has its bright moments, and moments of pure witticism, I couldn't get into its rhythm...or maybe that is the problem: Its lack of rhythm, especially regarding the story's first half.

The fact that the author decided to give us some basic character information of our leading seven main characters by simply associating some traits to them, and then later on, simply vocalize a constant (and boring!) stream of adjectives to their names, was for me the story's weakest point.
I get it. Just like a farce, the author decided to give us stereotyped characters:
The witty one, the kind one, the dull one, and so on and on...
But they're seven girls, and to be given phrases such as this, right at the beginning of the story, is pushing a DNF:

Pocked Louise opened her mouth to correct Dull Martha, but Smooth Kitty shook her head slightly. Pocked Louise, the youngest of the girls, was accustomed to her older schoolmates bossing her. She kept still.
Dear Roberta covered her face with her hands.

To say that I had a really hard time with phrases such as it, would be putting it mildly.

By the second half of story I did however became more accustomed to this peculiar format _or maybe I just started ignoring it _ so I could start and appreciating the writing a little more, without having to stop to figure out which character I was now reading about.

The problem with a farce _at least as far as I see this _ is that by given us these stereotyped nineteen century characters, all of the girls voices somewhat sounded the same.

Yes, their interests were all very varied, but feeling that if it weren't for the adjectives used to identify them, I wouldn't know how to proper differentiate them, was not a good feeling.

For instance, what were the chances that seven girls with apparently so different personalities would act so blasé in the face of not one, but two murders?

Yes, I remember that this is a farce, but I can't help feeling that the only thing it managed to do _in the beginning_, was to portray the girls somewhat as sociopaths.

This was all during the infamous first part of the book.

Second half:
It got better...much better...

Although the situations couldn't be more confabulated, the girls' character started to leak through their simple given adjectives :

Poison is a woman’s weapon,” Pocked Louise told Dour Elinor.(..)
“You sound proud of it,” Elinor observed.
“Why shouldn’t I be?” Louise flipped through the pages of her notebook. “I don’t condone killing, but if killing happens anyway, then I think women go about it much more sensibly.
Leave it to men to be loud and violent and messy about the business.

So we have the smart young woman used to having her opinion discarded at home...
Then the one who is used to having her way about everything resorting to her charms...
Also, the girl who is too good for her own good..
The one that isn't all that smart...
The one who would like to go to university..
The one who rather enjoys different things..
And the one that always seemed lacking, when compared with thinner family members...

Despite different upbringings, and ages, there's one thing all of these girls have in common:
Neither of them wants to go home...so when their headmistress and brother drop dead at the dinner's table, there's only one solution for them all:
Bury the corps, and pretend as if nothing had happened.

Which is easier said that done, since the girls will have their work cut out for them, trying to deal with numerous shady characters that will start flocking to their school as if attracted to something...

Things you may expect reading this story:
People digging graves...
Carts of manure...
Breaking and entering...
Charming young gentleman..
Charming old ex-sailors..
Marriage proposals..
Poisoned people..and animals
(don't worry the animal doesn't die!)
A little bit of flirt...
Making out....nineteen century making out!! Hand kissing!
Darling nephews..

What happens here to redeem the story for its strange "characters characterization", is that this is a very complete farce in which apparently joking, the author manages to give us an in depth look at what it meant to be a girl in the nineteen century, and how the rest of society perceived her.

So, merit wise, this story is very well accomplished...
Do I intend to re-read it?
In a near future I don't think so. Also this was so quirky and different, that unlike what happens with most books, I don't think I will be forgetting this one so soon.

But who knows, maybe in a couple of years I will be more adept to this type of storytelling.

I cannot say that it does not have its merits.
It just wasn't for me.

Profile Image for Glory.
350 reviews49 followers
May 18, 2015
Очередная утомительная и ничем не примечательная трапеза в школе для девочек имени Святой Этельдреды закончилась весьма странно.
Директриса вдруг ни с того ни с сего закашлялась, словно подавилась, и упала замертво. А следом точно тем же способом скончался и ее мерзкий (по мнению воспитанниц школы) братец, также присутствовавший за столом.

Какова вероятность, что два человека с интервалом в минуту могут так глупо умереть, подавившись, к примеру, кусочком мяса? "Отравление!" - решают девочки и не спешат звать на помощь.
Во-первых, в убийстве вполне могут обвинить одну из них.
А во-вторых, смерть директрисы означает возвращение домой, а домой не хочется никому. Каждую ждет либо злая мачеха, либо противные братья, либо не менее противная тетушка... В общем, уж лучше здесь, с теми, кто стал сестрами. Пусть ради этого и придется скрыть смерть директрисы и закопать пару трупов.


Мне очень понравился роман, хотя сомневаюсь, что он подходит для своей целевой аудитории.
Но так как мне не 10-12, то я жаловаться не буду))

Сюжет порой предсказуем, но героини получились такими яркими и разными, что только наблюдая за ними можно получить немало удовольствия.
Чего стоит хотя бы вступление, где автор в весьма насмешливой форме рассказывает, как каждая из учениц угодила в школу. И каждая из этих маленьких историй затем отражается в именах героинь. Точнее не в самих именах, а в прилагательных перед ними: Disgraceful Mary Jane, Dour Elinor, Smooth Kitty, Dull Martha, Dear Roberta, Pocked Louise, Stout Alice.
Поначалу это может немного напрягать, но потом только радует, особенно при некоторых обстоятельствах))

Сарказм, ирония, юмор (иногда весьма едкий), а главное - историческая атмосфера, коей пропитано каждое описание, каждый диалог... В общем, все, как я люблю: вкусно, весело и порой по-черному))

И да, меня дико прет с немецкой обложки =)
Profile Image for Amy.
2,578 reviews400 followers
November 2, 2016
So maybe this is more of a 4 star than a 5 star book...but I will be honest, I had so much FUN listening to it that I don't even care! This book seriously exceeded expectation!

When their headmistress and her odious brother are suddenly poisoned, the students of St. Etheldreda's School for Girls have a decision to make. Do they alert the police and return to their respective homes, or carry on as if nothing happened? They opt to bury the bodies. Unfortunately, hiding murder is not easy, especially when the murderer is still at large! But who on earth wanted Mrs. Plackett and her brother dead?

This really was a fun, farcical tale of murder, mayhem, and most inconvenient situations. A great part of the book's charm comes from the 7 main characters, the students of St. Etheldreda's School for Girls. Especially because I was listening to it on audio book, I was sensitive to how many of them there were and I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep track of them. However, the author does a wonderful job making each one distinctive and memorable by using an adjective with their name (i.e. Smooth Kitty, Stout Alice, Dour Eleanor, etc.) After the first chapter, I had no problem figuring them out.
I loved how the book threw all sorts of random packages and notes and weird, incidental moments into the first few chapters and then slowly unpacks each one to develop the story further. The murderer was somewhat obvious but it was still fun piecing together the clues of how everything comes together.
There is even a touch of romance!

I've overused this adjective but really...this book was just fun. I want more!
Profile Image for midnightfaerie.
1,945 reviews122 followers
May 16, 2016
I just couldn't finish this book, I was so bored and disappointed. It looked nice and gothic and dark, just like I like it, and it was on a whim that I picked it up that day at the library. I guess either I'm a book snob or the children's books of today just don't seem up to par with my standards. I think they're too light, or too easy, or don't have enough character depth, or theme relating to the human condition. One might argue that they're not supposed to. And that's fine. Except I go to the young adult section in the library and see books like A wrinkle in Time and Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and I think that there are still some people out there that think like me. I've also come to the conclusion that it's very likely that I would have loved some of these books I have been reading when I was a kid. I loved Christopher Pike and Sweet Valley High and Lois Duncan. But now I see holes in plots. They just called the ten year old sister in a recent book to tell her that they're meeting at the bad guy's place. This girl is impulsive and never waits for anyone, but when they show up she's there waiting patiently? I see this all the time and it bothers me so much I can't enjoy the story as much because it's just not believable. This book not only had several of these holes but also had a dry style of writing that I just couldn't get into. And I couldn't see motive for the actions of some of the girls. I suspect their personalities would have become more developed over time and I would have seen the motives, but it being a young adult book, I just didn't have the patience. Although I did like the list of characters and their pictures at the beginning of the book. Still looking for great writing in young adult literature.
Profile Image for Shazzer.
751 reviews21 followers
October 28, 2014
When first asks to describe this week’s book, I said, “It’s a Victorian Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead murder mystery. For kids.” That seemed to do the trick. For those of you unfamiliar with that awesome ‘90’s guilty pleasure movie, the story goes like this: Kids are left with an irascible guardian while their parents are away. Guardian dies. Kids attempt to fool the world into thinking Guardian is still alive so they can be on their own. In Julie Berry’s The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, seven boarding school girls, described as “Pocked”, “Stout”, “Dour”, “Dear”, “Disgraceful”, “Dull” and “Smooth” in turn, are unexpectedly left on their own with their headmistress and her brother drop dead over dinner one evening. The verdict is poison, but the girls have no idea who’s done the deed. Was it one of their own? Not wanting to be sent back home to less-than-ideal family situations, the girls conspire the hide their headmistress’s death from a very nosy township, while simultaneously trying to solve her murder. The result is sometimes spooky, often hilarious and always entertaining.
Profile Image for First Second Books.
560 reviews548 followers
March 24, 2014
I thought this book was super-fun! Mysterious deaths, secret fortunes in doubloons, girls in disguise – what more can you want from a boarding school book?
Profile Image for Amanda .
696 reviews13 followers
January 25, 2021
This middle grade book was a lovely romp through the Victorian era. The mystery gets off to a start right away and I found myself wondering who was the cause of the death of the headmistress and her ne'er do well brother. The seven girls from the boarding school all have descriptive adjectives used preceding their names, which makes it easier for the reader to remember who they are - very helpful when there are so many girls to keep track of! The girls realize that if they alert the authorities they'll be split up and sent home to arguably lonelier lives. They come up with a plan to try to keep the school running without the townsfolk aware that any deaths have occurred. Their boring, highly controlled lives are promptly transformed to ones in which they are in charge of their schedules and must be constantly acting to hide the truth.

The writing was excellent, high consumable, and the pacing was quick. I can't read another book by Berry.
Profile Image for Kaye.
214 reviews430 followers
December 31, 2014
Now, I hope no one takes this the wrong way, but –

I really enjoy a good murder mystery.

(Just keep the words in that order and don’t remove the mystery, and I think we’ll all be good.)
I grew up on Sherlock Holmes, a little bit of Alfred Hitchcock’s mystery anthologies here and there, and Agatha Christie adaptations, particularly Poirot and the beloved Miss Marple – some better than others. Do not get me started on the particular series that features Miss Marple as a patient, innocent bystander, replete with yarn and needles and some kind young man or other that actually gets the job done.

Do not.

In any case, I am particularly smitten if there is something afoot, plenty of red herrings, and a smidgen of humor to tie everything together.

So it might be a bit of a mystery in itself why The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place was allowed to languish on my shelf for a good few months pre- and post-publication.

I…honestly have no answers for you right now. I can definitely tell you that I regret said languishing and I might very well make up for it in the future with a re-read or two.
But let’s talk about what makes me regret said languishing, and why you shouldn’t make the same mistakes.

The Scandalous Sisterhood is comprised of several girls who were endearing to me from the onset and quite beloved at the conclusion: Dull Martha, Smooth Kitty, Poxed Louise, Disgraceful Mary Jane, Stout Alice (my personal, absolute favorite), Dear Rebecca and Dour Elinor.

The little monikers at the beginning of each name was a little confusing at the beginning, but once you’re headlong into the story, it helps to know which girl will react which way – and it also rather adds to the humor of it all.

So. Our fair and often aptly nicknamed heroines are away at boarding school, under the eye of a rather disliked headmistress and her boor of a brother. And then, one night at dinner, both of them drop dead. The meal was poisoned. There is a murderer among them.

Now, in normal society, the proper thing to do (one would hope) is to call the authorities and possibly the local media if you really want a circus, and step back. But Smooth Kitty proposes something different. They conceal the evidence, pretend as though everything is absolutely fine, and find out the murderer for themselves.

And so the mishaps begin.

This is my first time reading anything of Julie Berry’s, and I must say that she has a particular talent for engrossing, often wry prose and appropriately paced capers. My eyes didn’t wander. There were no pointless drops in mood after a particularly tense scene and no unnecessary love interest (and rare as it is for me to say this, yes – the older girls’ love interests were very, very necessary).

I’d give the entire mechanics of the novel a good A+.

This is definitely on the middle grade scale of things, but I think it has pretty good crossover appeal if you like a quaintly written, good old-fashioned free-for-all. Also, a book where all the girls involved in a scheme are friends, genuinely care for each other and look out for each other’s well-being! How very, very refreshing!


My only bone to pick, if anything, is the fact that I’m personally still blinking over the ending. One of the tapped criminals did not make sense in the grand scheme of things to me.

(It was for something besides the murder, which was pretty well thought out and made me a little nervous of eating in the house of anyone who might hypothetically want to see me laid out on the floor.)

In any case, I noted last night that I feel the morbid undertones would be of particular appeal for Tim Burton or Laika Studios to consider an adaptation.

I don’t know how to make this happen, but considering that Laika has a particular eye right now for children’s books (have you heard the good word about the Wildwood option?), I am crossing my fingers that eventually, the Scandalous Sisterhood might fall in the right hands to make that come together.

You never know.
Profile Image for QNPoohBear.
2,997 reviews1,480 followers
February 3, 2021
At St. Ethelrelda's School for Young Ladies on Prickwillow Road, in Ely, Cambridgeshire, seven young ladies are prepared for an awful Sunday dinner serving their horrid headmistress Mrs. Plackett and her awful brother Aldous Godding. Dull Martha Boyle has prepared a dinner of pork chops for the adults while the children eat buttered bread and hot beans. When Mrs. Plackett takes a bite of her chop and drops dead, soon followed by her brother, the young ladies feel liberated at last. Free of Mrs. Plackett's boring lessons, displeasure and discipline. Free to live their own lives for a change. But- if they call the police, the young ladies will be sent packing, back to homes where they are unwanted and unloved and then off to other boarding schools, separated forever from their friends. Smooth Kitty Heaton takes the lead and comes up with a plan that will allow the young ladies to stay in their home, alone. They will bury the bodies in the vegetable garden and that will be that. The young ladies don't count on a stream of visitors, including a love-struck Admiral, a doctor intent on seeing his patient and an elderly busybody who intends to spend the night in Mrs. Plackett's bed - with Mrs. Plackett! There's nothing to do except make Stout Alice dress up in Mrs. Plackett's clothes and pretend to be the elderly headmistress. Later that night, Pocked Louise Dudley tests the evening chops for poison and comes up with arsenic poisoning. Who would want to kill their headmistress and why? Was it one of them? In addition to the evening visitors, the girls also have to contend with a solicitors' assistant, a farmer's son, the Reverend, a handsome young constable, and some curious strangers. They also have to learn to pinch pennies and sack their cook/housekeeper Amanda Barnes who has served them well for years. How long can they keep up the charade without someone finding out? Who was the murderer? Who did they hear cooing in the garden on the night of the murder? Who is the stranger searching for their address? Will things ever return to normal?

This story is in the tradition of Roald Dahl and sort of similar in tone to Lemony Snicket. It's full of dark humor and esoteric Victorian facts. I really liked the daily life and Victorian British Empire tidbits worked into the story. That worked well. The mystery was engaging enough for me to quit reading halfway through for the night but turn to the end to find who whodunit. Even though I already knew the who and the why the next night, I still stayed up late to find out how it was all resolved. I never would have guessed who the murderer was! It wasn't who I expected but it makes sense. For me, it was bit too frustrating to have these children running around unsupervised lying to everyone. I kept wondering how long they could keep it up. I also felt there were too many characters for the plot.

I never really warmed up to any of the girls. I found them all hard to keep track of. Smooth Kitty Heaton, is the intelligent, direct, bossy one. She sees herself as the leader of the other young ladies and keeps coming up with plans. Like her father, she fails to see how her plans affect others, mostly Stout Alice, who must give up her own hopes and dreams and her own life to become Mrs. Plackett. I felt horribly sad for Alice. First, everyone fat shames her and then because she has a more rounded figure, like the headmistress and a gift for mimicry, she must impersonate the awful woman, wearing the dead woman's clothes and being subjected to "love making" from an elderly Admiral two decades older than Mrs. Plackett's 60-something. Alice starts to lose her identity and is pretty miserable. The younger girls see how Alice is not thriving but Kitty continually ignores Alice as a person. Yet, I can relate to Kitty. I wouldn't ever be so daring but it would be tempting. The only other one with a personality is Disgraceful Mary Jane who is a flirt. She's selfish and awful. All she does is flirt with men, any man available- young or old. They must be handsome though. She's a coquette and was sent away to avoid eloping with an unsuitable man. I don't think she will though. She has standards: money and comfort are important as well as good looks. She shows a brief moment of compassion for Alice. Pocked Louise is the scientific one of the bunch. She has an analytical brain but still has a lot to learn about chemistry. I feel sorry for her wanting to be a doctor in 19th-century Britain. However, the good news is that ladies will soon be accepted at medical colleges. She's really, really smart and appointed the Sherlock Holmes (only known from A Study in Scarlet) of the bunch. She solves the mystery eventually. I think she could have figured it out a bit earlier but there were a couple of suspects and a lot of red herrings. Dour Elinor Siever has a fondness for death and darkness; Dear Roberta Pratley is sweet but not too bright; Dull Martha Boyle, is plain and unremarkable but has a good heart. She cracks easily under pressure and I don't blame her. She has to live with the guilt that she prepared supper that evening even if she isn't the killer.

Constance Plackett wasn't your stereotypical boarding school headmistress. She wasn't completely horrible but she never showed any love or compassion to her students. To be fair, she was being paid to be tough on them. This is a school for wayward and unwanted young ladies. Mrs. Plackett's better qualities don't come out until she's dead. Then we learn to have some empathy for her, even though she really wasn't a nice person. Her brother, Aldous Godding, was a stereotypical bad boy. He was unpleasant, nasty, snobby and egotistical. His selfishness knew no bounds and he kept imposing on his sister. Aldous had some unsavory hobbies and it's hinted at that he liked to keep company with women, something the young lady characters don't understand and the young readers probably won't either so I don't know why that was included. (ladies vs. women... as in women of the evening). He had no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Admiral Paris Lockwood is the elderly suitor of Mrs. Plackett. They've been keeping company and keeping secrets. He seems like a kind man and would have been an excellent grandfather. Too bad he doesn't seem to have a family. Alice takes a liking to him for his own sake. However, he can't take a hint and go away when he's not wanted! Reverend Rumsey is a greedy lush. He sucks up to Mrs. Plackett in hopes she'll leave all her money to the church. His wife is a harridan so it's no wonder he's trying to escape his home. I think if he wasn't married he might be another suitor for the widow's hand. Dr. Snelling is not a very good doctor. He can't tell the difference between a healthy young adult and an ailing older adult. He never even notices the charade. I don't think Dr. Snelling is a very good doctor and he just goes through the motions without caring about the patient. He just cares about getting paid. Miss Letitia Fringle is the village busybody. She's horrid in the usual way. Amanda Barnes has been the faithful domestic for the school forever. Everyone takes her for granted. I felt horrible for her when they had to sack her and that's one of the few times Kitty felt compassion for another person. I get the impression she didn't like looking after the young ladies and was disgruntled but didn't want to lose her position. I'm sure working at a boarding school for 7 teenage girls is pretty rough and on top of that, Mrs. Plackett was pretty awful too. I had a lot of compassion for her. Mr. Rigby, an antique furniture dealer is rude and smarmy. I'm certain he isn't who he says he is and he may have something to do with the murder.

Henry Butts, the farmer's son, is awkward and shy. He's kind when it counts. Leland Murphy, the youngest junior law clerk employed by the village solicitor is not an ideal romantic hero. He's even more socially awkward than Henry Butts and very physically unattractive. Yet I sense his heart is in the right place. I can't see why a teenage girl would find him attractive but as she is considered unattractive herself, she knows it's what's inside that counts. The mysterious young man in the shop is a bit cheeky. He has a sense of humor but it can be unkind at times. I guessed his identity pretty quickly. I wasn't sure if he was a good guy or a bad guy. I think he's a fine young man but very bold to wink at Kitty in a shop. His mother is lovely. I like her a lot. Aldy, the puppy, is naughty. The girls need to train him better and give him a new name. He is a good alert dog, however and the girls do need protection.

I'm not the demographic for this story so it didn't quite appeal to me. I think kids ages 10+ will enjoy it more, especially those who like mysteries and historical fiction and dark humor. I think boys could enjoy this even though it's about 7 young ladies.
Profile Image for Anastasia Terendii.
198 reviews33 followers
April 14, 2023
дуже довгого відгуку не буде, бо в мене рука в гіпсі

ееее, а шо це взагалі таке було? ай'м конф'юзд, якшо чесно

історія розповідає нам про багато різних дівчаток, яких батьки відправили в школу для дівчат, в якій вони живуть з директоркою та її братом. і тут одного дня ці двоє дорослих помирають від якоїсь отрути за вечерею. дівчатка вирішують приховати ці дві смерті від решти дорослих, щоб батьки їх не відправили в інші школи

відразу скажу, що я нормально ставлюсь до міддл грейдних історій, але this one just wasn't it. перш за все, занадто багато майже однакових дівчаток, які майже нічим (крім прикметників перед їхніми іменами, які авторка повторює що-ра-зу, щоб ми ненароком не забули) не відрізняються. книжка написана від третьої особи, головної героїні тут, по суті, немає, так нас ще й буквально відразу кидають у вир подій, ніяк не пояснюючи, чим особлива кожна дівчинка. як взагалі їх відрізняти? я так і не зрозуміла, постійно плуталась, і імена мені не допомагали

не читала поки інші книжки авторки ("Лагідну війну" планую пізніше цього року), тому не знаю, чи вони схожі стилем написання і тд на цю, але це якась ну дуже дивна історія. можливо, якщо це б читала 10річна дитина, то вона б вірила написаному, але як доросла людина я взагалі не сприймала сюжет. ну типу, наприклад, дівчинка (недопідліток) перевдягається в директорку школи, і решта дорослих персонажів думає, що це дійсно стара жінка. це як взагалі? як мені це читати і сприймати адекватно?

буквально ледь не всі події в історії настільки ж нелогічні і нереалістичні. жарти мені теж не сподобались, хоча книжка і ніби намагається здаватись вікторіанським детективом, але їй це ніяк не вдається. загалом, це якась ну дуже тупа історія, яку я б нікому не порадила (ну хіба дітям до років так 10-12, але навіть для цього віку все одно є набагато кращі історії)
Profile Image for Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all).
1,967 reviews179 followers
May 28, 2018
Dear Ms Berry,
"Falling in love" with Ely (or any other city) is not enough. Book research is not enough. You still sound like what you are: an American author trying, and failing, to sound British and nineteenth-century. If only, if only you had stuck with what you know; setting the story in an American boarding school for young ladies (of which there were many at that time) would have served you much, much better. Your characters are far too American in their speech and actions and reactions to ever pass for upper-class (or even middle-class) 19th century English girls. It's a good thing you gave each a nickname; seven girls with little physical description were almost impossible to tell aprt without them. Why? Because you just didn't bother to develop them beyond the first few lines at the very beginning of the book. They're interchangeable little nobodies, hard as you try to make them all advanced and modern and, dare I say it, feminist. The whole story reeked of Smalltown, USA, from the "strawberry social" (an American institution if ever there was one) to the language you used. I kept thinking of "The Music Man."

Ohhh, that language. If an author is going to write a period piece, they should at least be able to handle the period idiom; and if they can't, pay a good editor/proofreader to catch the more glaring of their mistakes. As it is, your novel is peppered with the worst sort of cross-cultural howler. First, no 19th century cathedral-town doctor would ever, ever exclaim, "In the name of Mike!" That is pure American Eastern seaboard--even I know that. Men did, and indeed still do, wear "pants" in the UK, but there, "pants" are only ever underpants. Outside clothing are always, always "trousers." Aside from that, the anachronisms ("Sometimes you severely overthink things") vied with mixed-up syntactical horrors such as "What Barnes must think now, Kitty could not stomach to guess" and "Damp clouds (are there any other kind?) obscured the stars" making the book a cringe-making experience for readers who, like myself, have spent the best part of their lives reading English literature from the nineteenth century backward.

If you had only respected your plot and characters enough to write them as you know them, instead of thinking your readers wouldn't notice the glaring mistakes, you'd have had a light, silly, enjoyable little piece of mental cotton candy. As it is, you have embarassed yourself and your readership. I really can't give more than two stars, though I really wished you had done better by your tale.

I'm sure you can do better than this, if you really try. Be who you are, and let your characters be who they really are.
Yours in hope,
Orinoco Womble
Profile Image for Jim.
2,569 reviews138 followers
September 10, 2020
What a rollicking mystery this was! One might think it silly to give this book 5 stars, right? Honestly, how does this compare to other grand novels, which surely deserve such a rating, when this is merely a MG/YA laugh-out-loud, double murder, reform school girls funfest?!? I just loved it. Absolutely so. Read from start to finish, breaks only for coffee, and that unfortunate result of too much coffee... Ahem. This book was serious fun! Seriously! All the characters were perfectly drawn and not a single one felt out of place or unnecessary. I LOVED that the young ladies were so specifically themselves, AND that they were only tangentially interested in young men (except for one, but with a name like that!) and being arm candy was in no way the purpose for their existence. Their friendships felt authentic and genuine and honest, not to mention funny as hell and quite smart-assed at times. Amazing stuff. The whodunnit-and-whydunnit were expertly crafted. Just enough enigmas to make things trot right along, and each possibility seemed equally, well, possible. The entire story had this strong emotional thread running through it, but it wasn't all sappy and woe-is-me and overly (typical) youngladylike silliness. And unless you're spending less time reading/savoring the storylines and more time trying to suss out the guilty person, you'll be enjoying a stupendously entertaining and damned funny female-driven mystery that might end where you didn't expect, with plenty of extra bits and bobs to fit most any taste. I would recommend this book to anyone, as there is plenty to love for a variety of reader-types. Enjoy!
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