Original (and far superior) title: Arsenic for Tea. The Americanisms continue to detract from the story; try the British edition if at all possible.
ThOriginal (and far superior) title: Arsenic for Tea. The Americanisms continue to detract from the story; try the British edition if at all possible.
This country house mystery is an enjoyable and worthy sequel to the first book. Hazel's and Daisy's occasionally fraught friendship is just as interesting to watch, and a couple of their schoolmates get a little more character development, as well. I did think that some of the characterizations of Daisy's family members were a bit too over-the-top. On the other hand, I adored a couple of the newly introduced characters (namely (view spoiler)[Uncle Felix and Miss Alston (hide spoiler)]) and hope to see them reappear in subsequent books. The mystery plot was once again very satisfying, particularly for a middle grade book, with a number of excellent red herrings....more
Originally published under the much better title Murder Most Unladylike. The edition I read was also Americanized quite a bit, and I kept being pulledOriginally published under the much better title Murder Most Unladylike. The edition I read was also Americanized quite a bit, and I kept being pulled out of the story as a result; if you can find a British edition, I recommend trying it instead.
That aside, I thought this was an interesting and surprisingly substantial middle grade historical mystery. It's set in an English girls' school in 1934 and features amateur detectives Hazel Wong, the wealthy Hong Kongese protagonist, and her very uppercrust British best friend, Daisy Wells. The girls are wonderfully distinctive; Hazel's the nicer and quietly stubborn one (and my favorite), while Daisy's the sort of intelligent asshole character that teenage girls are rarely allowed to be in fiction. There's some examination of racism that never adopts a too modern tone or strays into didacticism. There's also a refreshing amount of queerness, in the form of both F/F relationships and schoolgirl crushes.
The mystery is quite good, as well; not too easy to figure out, and (not that I required this element, but) a bit more violent than I'd expected from a middle grade book. The best part for me was how many mistakes Hazel and Daisy make. They'll eliminate a suspect for having an alibi, only to discover that the alibi isn't as strong as they'd originally thought. They each have their favorite teachers whom they don't like to suspect of wrongdoing. They try to come up with motives for the murder, some of which are reasonable and others of which are total kid logic. And yet they're also clever and persistent and organized, and they triumph very satisfyingly in the end....more
A delightfully funny and insightful British schoolboy novel. Benson is very good at depicting the tumult of adolescence, and especially the desperateA delightfully funny and insightful British schoolboy novel. Benson is very good at depicting the tumult of adolescence, and especially the desperate pursuit of looking and acting the right way among your peers, no matter that what's "right" changes from year to year and from school to school.
I generally prefer less internalized homophobia in my narratives, but for a book originally published in 1916, this was a very fun read....more