Daisy and Hazel are back in their fifth mystery – this time, a mystery in a Cambridge college during the Christmas holidays.
Title: Mistletoe and Murder
Written by Robin Stevens
Genre: Middle Grade, Murder Mysteries
Publication Date: October 20 2016
Paperback: 354 pages
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea-rooms – but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College.
Three nights before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. At least, it appears to be an accident – until the Detective Society look a little closer, and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).
The fabulously festive fifth mystery from the bestselling, award-winning author of Murder Most Unladylike.
Stand alone or series: A Murder Most Unladylike – Wells and Wong #5
How did I get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): paperback
Daisy and Hazel – aka the Detective Society – are spending their holidays with Daisy’s brother Bertie in Cambridge when a series of suspicious “accidents” start happening to one of Bertie’s friends who happens to be the heir to a massive fortune, set to inherit just after Christmas on his 21st birthday… If he can make it that long given his (younger) twin brother’s penchant for “pranks”. Daisy and Hazel wonder: is it possible that the jokes and pranks hide something more sinister?
The Detective Society and its closest rival agency are on the case and ready to crack this mystery before the unthinkable happens.
I’ve been enamoured with the Murder Most Unladylike series since the beginning but this entry might well be my absolute favourite. Let me count the ways:
-It’s set in Cambridge, during the holidays. This series does many things well, one of them is the great sense of atmosphere and historical detail.
-Speaking of history: the girls stay with Daisy’s aunt in a women-only college. One of the recurring themes here is that of worth, agency, and privilege. One of the main characters is a female student who works thrice as hard as her male counterparts but it’s less appreciated, rewarded or respected.
-This brings me to one of my favourite things about this particular entry. Daisy and Hazel are now young adults. Up to this point, the biggest obstacle to the success of their work as detectives was their youth. But now that they are young women, rather than young girls, there is this one extra layer of contention they have to face: patriarchy. Over and over again they are met with obstacles that now relate to them being young ladies and their continuous bafflement and ensuing wakening to this fact is as sad as it is truthful. The women in the novel are the smart, outspoken and incredibly talented.
-The other aspect of note about Mistletoe and Murder: Hazel’s continued thought-processing of her place as a person of colour. In her small world at the boarding school, she is the only one who is not white. In Cambridge, she meets a number of PoC students attending Cambridge including a Chinese immigrant like her and two Indian-British brothers. This raises a number of questions for Hazel, including that of privilege, amity and solidarity. There is one moment in the story when they suspect one of the PoC characters and Hazel is very much aware that any semblance of accusation without final proof could effectively ruin that person’s life in a way that a white person’s would not be ruined. This book feels sadly topical given Brexit and the recent US elections.
-With the girls growing up, another side of their lives become more prominent – their interest (or lack of) in romance and boys. Hazel has had feelings for a boy since book 3 in the series and in Mistletoe and Murder those feelings become more pronounced. As a counterpart, Daisy’s lack of romantic feelings becomes A Thing: in one particular moment, Daisy voices that she does not have interest in boys. It’s a scene that decidedly reads to me as Daisy coming out as asexual. I also love that it’s pretty clear that Bertie is gay.
-The actual murder mystery is once again, well-developed, smart and full of twists.
So, this book is: a great murder mystery, a great holiday read and a timely, topical diverse novel for our times. May the Detective Society live forever.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Additional Thoughts: Reviews of previous books: