Mondays are for Murder: Arsenic for Tea…

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Welcome to another dose of Mondays are for Murder, the feature in which I report on the latest murder-mystery to have graced my shelf and eyeballs.  Today’s review underwent a midstream alteration – I was going to feature the new(ish), not-written-by-Agatha-Christie-but-featuring-Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah, but unfortunately I found it to be lacking in the Poirot department (you can read my Goodreads review here) and so I turned my attention to that inimitable schoolgirl duo, Wells and Wong, in their second outing, Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens.

Hazel and Daisy are staying at Daisy’s home, Fallingford, for the holidays along with their dorm-mates, Kitty and Beanie, under the tutelage of slightly suspicious governess, Miss Alston.  When Mrs Wells’ odious young friend, Mr Curtis drops dead during Daisy’s birthday tea, it becomes apparent that all is not as it appears at Fallingford. The girls immediately suspect that Mr Curtis has been poisoned and once again find themselves thrust into the midst of a murder investigation.  As the weather worsens and Fallingford is cut off by rising floodwaters, will Hazel and Daisy (and assistants Kitty and Beanie) be able to untangle the mystery before the murderer strikes again?

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The Usual Suspects:

This time Stevens has kept things all in the family – mostly.  There’s Daisy’s parents, Lord and Lady Hastings, her Aunt Saskia (she of the floaty scarves and light fingers), her shrewd Uncle Felix, older brother Bertie and Bertie’s school friend Stephen.  Then there’s the hired help – Miss Alston, who is acting very strangely indeed (and not at all like a governess), Lord Hasting’s Gentleman’s Gentleman, and the kitchen staff (who always know more than they are telling).

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

The hunt is conducted in a somewhat clandestine fashion, as it is not immediately apparent to all concerned that murder has in fact taken place.  Thus, our girl detectives must use all of their cunning and wiles to sneak about, eavesdrop and generally avoid the watchful gaze of Miss Alston by concealing their enquiries under the pretence of multiple games of hide and seek and the like.  There are plenty of twists and turns though, as suspects are ruled out and back in again, and the girls have more than one brush with mysterious persons unknown lurking, supposedly unseen, in incriminating places.

Overall Rating:

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Four poison bottles for a good old-fashioned big house romp

This second offering featuring Wells and Wong had all the features of a manor-house-based Christie-mystery, with the added bonus of child detectives.  I really enjoyed the period feel of the story and, being a known fan of Christie, the careful plotting of the murder narrative.  This was a real whodunit, of the kind I like, where the focus is on solving the puzzle, and trying to be as clever as the author.

I am quite pleased with how this emerging series is turning out, and I can’t wait to see what Stevens does with the girls next.

Until next time (in which we will plunge into Dorothy L. Sayers’ work – finally!),

Bruce

 

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