Today’s review is of Top Marks for Murder by Robin Stevens, published by Puffin Books, and illustrations by Nina Tara.
What it’s about: Death is back at Deepdean during the school’s Anniversary Weekend. As parents arrive for the celebrations, things start to go terribly, murderously wrong. As the school struggles to cope in the ensuing fear and chaos, one thing becomes very clear: if the murderer cannot be caught, the school could close forever. Can Hazel and Daisy save the day … and Deepdean?
My review: As a fan of boarding school stories and mysteries, Robin Stevens’ books are a salve! I always explain them as a mixture between Malory Towers and Agatha Christie to my pupils and others and they always fly off the shelves here in the Library, with the children reading them in quick succession. They are rarely in stock for long and I can totally understand the attraction – they are good mysteries worthy of the Queen of Crime herself! Hazel is a very self-effacing narrator – yes, Daisy is brilliant but with her intelligence comes a superiority (deliberately and expertly written by Stevens) that makes us cheer more for her quiet but clever sidekick. They are like younger, female versions of Holmes and Watson and Daisy’s self-assurance is often humorous.
It is a tribute to Robin’s writing that boys find these books equally engrossing. I know that we now live in an age where it shouldn’t matter whether a book’s protagonist is male or female but, like it or not, younger readers are often drawn to narrators who are of the same gender as themselves. In the Murder Most Unladylike books, boys are just as keen as girls to get their hands on the latest copy.
I bought our Library’s copies of this book a few weeks back, when I bumped into Robin Stevens in Oxford, at a book talk between Sophie Anderson and Candy Gourlay. She kindly signed them for me, despite being ‘off-duty’ and the children at school squeal with excitement to see her familiar autograph. I can’t see the popularity of this series waning and look forward to the next instalment!