8 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens

Title: Jolly Foul Play

Written by Robin Stevens

Genre: Middle Grade, Murder Mysteries

Publisher: Puffin
Publication Date: March 24 2016
Paperback: 336 pages

Jolly Foul Play

The fantastic new mystery from the author of Murder Most Unladylike.

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have returned to Deepdean for a new school term, but nothing is the same. There’s a new Head Girl, Elizabeth Hurst, and a team of Prefects – and these bullying Big Girls are certainly not good eggs.

Then, after the fireworks display on Bonfire Night, Elizabeth is found – murdered.

Many girls at Deepdean had reason to hate Elizabeth, but who might have committed such foul play? Could the murder be linked to the secrets and scandals, scribbled on scraps of paper, that are suddenly appearing around the school? And with their own friendship falling to pieces, how will Daisy and Hazel solve this mystery?

Stand alone or series: A Murder Most Unladylike – Wells and Wong #4

How did I get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): ecopy

Review:

Secrets are the most powerful things in the world.

I’ve been reading the delightful Wells and Wong series for a while now and four books in, it’s still going strong. In fact, I might even say that this fourth instalment is the best one yet. It’s a Boarding School Mystery featuring Mean Girls with a lot of subversion of these very tropes.

Daisy and Hazel are back to school and ready to solve new mysteries with their Detective Society. But little did they know that their new case would be yet another murder.

There are secrets everywhere at Deepdean – Daisy and Hazel know this all too well. The new Head Girl Elizabeth Hurst, who together with her team of prefects, the Big Girls, love to terrorise the younger students, seems to be especially fond of them and their leverage power. But then comes Bonfire Night and Elizabeth is found dead. “It was an accident” the official record says. But Daisy and Hazel know better. Then the secrets of Deepdean start to surface, little by little, all over the school, spread around written in pieces of paper.

Secrets lie at the heart of this mystery and are the focus of not only the main case but also of a secondary plotline involving a thief, as well as the central clash between Hazel and Daisy. Because Hazel has been keeping a secret from Daisy, something that might well jeopardise their friendship.

Boarding School mysteries are rife with potential for discord, for in-fighting and bullying. The Big Girls are at first presented as veritable Mean Girls but little by little, this is deconstructed by the narrative, just as the secrets and who they belong to are unveiled. Some of the secrets are sad, others dangerous and the novel gets bonus point for non-tragic secret lesbians. Jolly Foul Play reminded me of another recent boarding school mystery, the equally excellent (and very adult) The Secret Place by Tana French. Both books look at the ways that young girls behave toward each other, how expectations can be burdens – it’s all about the rich lives of girls and they are brilliant novels at that.

As usual, Hazel and Daisy’s observation skills transcend the mystery. Being the main narrator though (the Watson to Daisy’s Holmes), it is Hazel’s observations that shape the story. One of the biggest things she notices this time has to do with the pecking order at Deepdean. What happens once Elizabeth is dead and there is a power vacuum where she used to be? More than that, Hazel starts to look at the internal dynamics of their inner group and to really look at their friends:

And although I was looking at the Five, I was also seeing us – Kitty and Beanie and Lavinia and Daisy and me. I saw the way Kitty and Beanie have their own slightly private language and the way Lavinia is jealous of it, although she hides it beneath her general crossness. I saw that Kitty and Lavinia both want Daisy to notice them, and fight for it (while Beanie simply assumes that Daisy will not notice her, and has taught herself not to mind). And once again I saw the odd new way in which Daisy was looking at me, as though she had something on her mind that she could not say out loud. This case, it seemed to me, was becoming as much about us as about the Five.

Even though the series is marketed as Middle Grade, this book makes a definite turn from tween to teen.

This series continues to delight – and surprise me.

Rating: 8 – Excellent

Additional Thoughts: Reviews of previous books:

1.A Murder Most Unladylike
2.Arsenic for Tea
3.First Class Murder

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