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First Class Murder: Robin Stevens (A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery) Corgi 2015

I say, old things, I jolly well ought to put Mrs Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ on my ‘to reread’ pile!

This is the third adventure of the Detective Society, comprised of that paragon Daisy Wells and her erstwhile Watson Hazel Wong, and this time, they are indeed holidaying on the Orient Express. Hazel’s father has decided to whisk them away, in an attempt to show them Europe and get Daisy’s mind away from the trial for the events at her home in Fallingford related in ‘Arsenic for Tea’. He also hopes to get Hazel to stop detecting and influence Daisy in that direction as well. (Ha!)

However, Hazel is growing up and although her memories of the two murders that she and Daisy solved are unpleasant, her instinct is to see justice done and pursued with rigour. Besides, when she and Daisy meet an old acquaintance who is spy-hunting and then a murder occurs on their compartment of the train, what are they to do? Leave it to a bumbling doctor or some boy? Hazel doesn’t like disobeying her father, but she agrees with Daisy on this.

The friends’ double act continues, with Hazel seeing things that Daisy is oblivious to, but also accepting how their strengths complement each other. She’s more willing to stand up for herself and her opinions, which is also true of her around her father, who, despite his Anglophilia, wealth and power, is slighted by racists. Hazel doesn’t underestimate him, but she does find that her perspective of him is changing.

In the main, the rest of the cast of characters are stereotypes with secrets, apart from recurring characters (one of whom tries to be a decent antagonist to Daisy, but is foiled by her grown-upness and the girls’ detection skills). I wonder if Russian American Alexander and his Junior Pinkerton club will turn up again – I look forward to where Stevens takes her heroines next, given the way she brought in certain elements of the historical context, although this story lost some of the force of the schoolgirl detectives in a mash-up of genres of the last two books. Perhaps it was because this was in homage to a subgenre I’m less invested in or perhaps because of overfamiliarity with the series. I appreciate how the characters are growing up, although not quite as much as they think they have, and affected by what they’ve experienced, while their abilities are generally underestimated, although appreciated by a select few when they’ve solved the case.

Ah, the case – I picked up enough of the clues to be a step ahead of our heroines about some things, but didn’t quite get the culprit right.


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October 2017


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