Goodreads: Murder Is Bad Manners
Series: Wells and Wong #1
Published: April 2015 (first published June 2014 as Murder Most Unladylike)
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have their own secret detective agency operating out of Deepdean school, but until recently their biggest case involved finding Lavinia’s misssing tie. Then Hazel discovers their science teacher Miss Bell dead on the gym floor–and shortly after the body disappears. Now the two young detectives must not only uncover the murderer but also prove a murder happened in the first place. But will the two crack the case before the murderer strikes again?
Murder Is Bad Manners is a fun boarding school murder mystery, one that provides all the late-night sleuthing and invectives against etiquette that one could wish. However, though Hazel Wong provides a compelling narrative voice and the polite setting is a perfectly incongruous backdrop for such a crime as murder, the story, in the end, failed to captivate me. The clues fell too easily into the girls’ laps and the explanation at the end seemed too implausible for me to love this book as much as I thought I would.
Of course, explaining why I thought the clues too easy might give part of the plot away. So, generally speaking, I shall simply note that the girls find clues everywhere they look without much effort. Apparently the murderer simply trusted that no one would look at all. As for red herrings– I cannot say they exist. In fact, I was sure I knew who had committed the crime as soon as Hazel and Daisy had composed their first list of suspects. I need a little more suspense, a little more effort in my mysteries. As for the ending–I’m afraid I cannot explain why that falls flat without giving spoiling everything.
Though the plot did not much impress me, I did enjoy spending time with the characters. I love a good boarding school story full of classes and girl friendships. A little sleuthing during breaks can only improve things. It’s a little like Harry Potter, without any magic. And this book, I should mention, also does a fantastic job of introducing some diversity into our literature. Hazel Wong is a Chinese student in an English boarding school, sent there by her father who admires the West. Her mother does not have the same feelings on the West at all. And so, intertwined in this little mystery is an intriguing look at East-West relationships, touching briefly on Western racism, Eastern identity, and the way the East and the West view each other.
Despite my disappointment with how the mystery aspect of this story is handled, I like Hazel enough that I would like to read more of her adventures in the sequels. Hopefully the upcoming mysteries are more, well, mysterious.