Title: A Spoonful of Murder
Written by Robin Stevens
Genre: Middle Grade, Murder Mysteries
Publication Date: February 2018
Paperback: 352 pages
When Hazel Wong’s beloved grandfather passes away, Daisy Wells is all too happy to accompany her friend (and Detective Society Vice President) to Hazel’s family estate in beautiful, bustling Hong Kong. But when they arrive they discover something they didn’t expect: there’s a new member of the Wong family. Daisy and Hazel think baby Teddy is enough to deal with, but as always the girls are never far from a mystery. Tragedy strikes very close to home, and this time Hazel isn’t just the detective. She’s been framed for murder! The girls must work together like never before, confronting dangerous gangs, mysterious suspects and sinister private detectives to solve the murder and clear Hazel’s name – before it’s too late . . .
Stand alone or series: A Murder Most Unladylike – Wells and Wong #6
How did I get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): paperback
Hazel and Daisy’s new adventure take the intrepid duo to Hong Kong to attend Hazel’s beloved grandfather’s funeral and spend some time with Hazel’s family. But upon their arrival, they discover everything changed in Hazel’s absence: there is a new member of their family, a new sibling who turns out to be a boy. A boy that has caused a complete upheaval within the Wong household: all of a sudden, baby Teddy seems more important than Hazel and her sisters and the power dynamics between her mother (her father’s first wife) and Teddy’s mother (the second wife) feels more fraught than ever. To add insult to the injury, Hazel’s maid has been passed on to Teddy and all of Hazel’s memory of being loved by her have been somewhat tainted. Hazel hates everything about those changes and she dislikes her little brother too.
Then tragedy hits: during a visit to the doctor, baby Teddy is kidnapped and his nanny is horribly murdered. With a crime so close to home and to Hazel’s own heart, the Detective Society has their work cut out for them.
One of the most interesting things about this new instalment is the shift in scenario – even though Hazel has always been the only narrative voice of the series so far, she has always done so from an outsider’s perspective. This whole book takes place in Hong Kong, where Hazel is from and this shift is felt in her voice, in the way she expresses herself, in her growing self-confidence. Similarly, it was awesome to see Daisy – the Honourable English lady – be completely out of her element, unable to speak the local language, left out of most conversations. It effectively changed the dynamics between them and in the end of this entry, that dynamic shift seems to have arrived to stay for good, fitting with Hazel’s ongoing arc. None of this negates the close friendship between the two girls, something that only becomes stronger and stronger with each book.
A Spoonful of Murder really centres the narrative on Hazel since this particular murder mystery comes all wrapped up in the ongoing conflict between two cultures, between her parents and her feelings for both. To Hazel, there has always been a mix of respect and fear she feels for both parents. Her yearning for love, affection and above all, approval from both is part and parcel of this narrative and intermingle really well with not only with the actual murder mystery but also with the series’ ongoing look at patriarchy and systems of power be it back in England or back in Hong Hong. Is this particular mystery, patriarchy and oppression play a role in more ways than one including how both Hazel and Daisy completely underestimated the culprit. For that matter, I did too.
The mystery itself is steeped into the values and cultural background of Hong Kong in the early 20th century, which felt richly explored and well-researched (to this point, the author’s note on her research as an outsider was a welcome addition to the book).
A Spoonful of Murder is another great entry in the ongoing Wong and Wells series. There is going to be another one later in the year and I am already looking forward to it.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Additional Thoughts: Reviews of previous books: