This Middle-Grade Mystery Is Bad Manners, but Great Reading!

BookendsLynn: Turn Sherlock Holmes into a 12-year-old, blond-haired girl and Watson into a slightly chubby girl from Hong Kong, set them into a 1930’s British boarding school, and you have Robin Stevens’ debut mystery, Murder Is Bad Manners (2015). manners1Stevens doffs her writer’s hat to both Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous mysteries and the much-loved boarding-school stories, and pulls it off with panache!

Hong Kong native Hazel Wong is the notebook-writing Watson to Daisy Well’s Holmes. The pair formed the Wells and Wong Detective Society at the start of their 8th-grade year and had only a few small cases to solve until the day Hazel discovers the body of their science teacher, Miss Bell, lying in a spreading pool of blood on the gym floor. By the time Hazel runs for help and returns with Daisy, a prefect, and a teacher, the body has disappeared. All that remains is a small stain on the floor. A case at last! Daisy leaps eagerly into the mystery. Hazel, who realizes the real danger of the situation, reluctantly agrees to keep the discovery a secret until they can solve the case themselves.

Mystery Month 2015And what a convoluted, interesting case it is! Hazel methodically recounts their investigations, clues, and deductions, which first bring the girls to conflicting conclusions. Daisy’s dismissal of Hazel’s ideas leads to a serious challenge to their friendship. And the evolving friendship of the pair is every bit as interesting as mystery. The observant Hazel provides a captivating record not only of the dynamics of their complicated relationship but also of the attitudes and culture of the time and place. The result is a thoroughly engaging story that succeeds on several levels. I can’t wait for more installments. As Hazel remarks, “Daisy always has to know things,” and happily, so will we.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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