I first found out about Murder is Bad Manners via a Common Sense Media article. This book had not been on my radar at all, so I’m glad I took the time to read that article!
Murder is Bad Manners is the American version of a middle grade novel originally published in England as Murder Most Unladylike. Author Robin Stevens has published two more titles in the Wells & Wong mystery series, but we Americans are going to have to wait patiently for the American release of the second book.
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are students at the English Deepdean School in the 1930s. They have decided to form a detective society, and as the story begins, their cases have been relatively unremarkable. However, when Hazel inadvertently stumbles across the body of a teacher in the gym, Daisy is excited about the prospect of an actual case. But when the body disappears, the girls know there is something sinister afoot. The teachers are all acting suspicious, and almost everyone has a motive. Are Daisy and Hazel getting involved with something larger than they can handle?
Hazel serves as narrator, and she is the more insightful of the pair. Daisy is a clever girl, but she is very impulsive and so convinced that her deductions are correct that she dismisses any other possibilities. This causes a great deal of resentment on Hazel’s part, especially since she rarely confronts her friend. Daisy also seems to consider the entire affair to be a game; she forgets that real lives are at stake.
Hazel also offers a unique perspective. British boarding schools were fairly homogenous in the 1930s. It wasn’t considered odd for boys to be sent away,
but a girl from Hong Kong is somewhat of a rarity. While the other girls are generally kind to Hazel, there is a general sense of casual racism, and on occasion, more overt slights. Hazel seems to bear this burden rather stoically. Hazel is extremely clever and astute, and although she is a stranger in a strange land, she manages to find friendship at school.
This was an absolutely amazing book. I have always loved boarding school stories- especially British boarding school stories. Mysteries are another favorite of mine, so a combination of a jolly good boarding school story and a mystery? Just divine. If I had one complaint, it would be that the American version has changed some of the vocabulary. There are also explanations for some of the unchanged school terminology, and this was a bit of a distraction, considering that there is a glossary at the back of the book.
I would absolutely recommend Murder is Bad Manners. This book is best suited for children in the later years of elementary school and older. This is a very fun book; although Daisy and Hazel are clearly the protagonists, there is a coterie of girls in the dorm who are also loyal friends. The mystery was satisfying, and I am eagerly awaiting the release of the next two books and the opportunity for Daisy and Hazel’s next two adventures!