Death in the Spotlight.

 A Murder Most Unladylike adventure by Robin Stevens.

A Murder Mystery book review by Erin the Cat Princess.

Well, what a week it has been at the Palace. Monday, I sent Mrs H out to look at new flooring for the study. And would you believe it, she came back having looked at nothing but skirting boards. So, being the cunning feline I am, I sent her out on Tuesday to look for skirting boards with the hope she would look at flooring instead. 

The logic was there, but somehow…. well, let’s just say the request translated into looking at wallpaper. By Friday, we, meaning I, had sent her to look for everything else, but come what may, I still had no samples of flooring. I have catalogues for sinks, taps and plumbing sundries. There’s also a teetering pile of paint swatches, and strips of curtain fabric – which Mrs H assures me she did not cut out of the curtains in the shop window. I also have multiple rolled up lengths of wallpaper that look like the most ornate and expensive rolls of loo paper imaginable. I’ll be saving them for when we have royal guests I want to impress!

Any hope of new floorboard samples seemed to have disappeared. So I took things into my own claws. This morning I finally managed to corner Mrs H on the matter whilst she had her porridge; the live mouse I’d invited to share her bowl of said breakfast stodge, poised (gracefully in my delicate jaws) ready to join her.

Mrs H hurriedly apologised, and assured me that there were no physical samples available. At least not of a length that wouldn’t jeopardise the lives and limbs of pedestrians as she cycled by. So, she has decided to get the same as we already have.

Wouldn’t it have just been easier if she’d told me that from the the off?

OK, enough of my interior decorating and flooring woes, let’s get on with the show!

‘THE STAGE IS SET FOR MURDER’

This week we review the next book in the ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ series, ‘Death in the Spotlight’, by the fabulous Mrs Robin Stevens.

The Plot:

Hazel and Daisy have returned from their adventure in Hong Kong, but it is mid-term, and they can’t yet go back to their school, Deepdean. Instead, they stay in London with Daisy’s Uncle Felix and his new wife, Aunt Lucy. 

To keep them out of trouble (Ha!), Aunt Lucy takes them hither and thither to enjoy London. BUT when something crops up at Lucy’s very hush-hush secretive work, the girls end up going to help Lucy’s friends aunt. She happens to run the Rue Theatre in London. The thought is Hazel and Daisy will be entertained, supervised and enjoy the acting experience. Yes, that’s right, the girls get small parts in the theatre’s upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet.

This sets the scene, quite literally, for what happens next — MURDER.

The girls soon discover the cast has many conflicting personalities, and pasts they would rather not share. And there are the ever-present problems of a lack of money. There is also the sweet scent of romance, and not just because it is Romeo and Juliet.

Things start on a reasonably even keel with a prima donna of a star, Miss Rose Tree, causing the usual fuss and rubbing everyone up the wrong way. 

But very quickly, there come the threats. A note in Rose’s roses saying someone is coming for her. A peacock feather is left in her room at the theatre, and then her gown is slashed. Next comes a set of posters papered to the outside of the theatre for all the public to see. In a nasty version of Kitty in the well, they say that’s where Rose Tree is! 

When Rose Tree walks out and does not return the next day, few seem bothered. But the girls sense foul play. Soon after a murder is uncovered, and the real drama begins. Following on, the girls meet up with the Junior Pinkertons detectives, Alexander and George and the case takes them across London. Like all the best detective stories, the devil and the murders are in the detail. There is so much more I want to tell you, but really can’t.

So, I do think that this is a perfect place for the first interval. With the curtain down, I shall let you head to the bar to ponder over a soft drink or cocoa – after all, there are kids present in the audience – what will happen next. Will the show make it to the first night? Will our intrepid duo survive rehearsals and get to take their bows and an encore? Or will the play and the cast die a horrible death, and not just from the critics?! To find the answers to these meddlesome questions, you will just have to wait and see. . . 

What did we think?

Robin Stevens has picked an excellent theme for this adventure mystery. Theatre is full of tradition and superstition. And most importantly, the cast is already pretending to be who they aren’t. Seeing through not one but two or maybe three disguises is, I think, what makes this adventure extra appealing. 

I didn’t manage to solve this one, though I did think at one point it was the lady that sells the ice creams, and it was all down to timing. When Mrs H asked why, I insisted on proving my point by ordering up some double-cream ices tubs of my own. Mrs H timed me eating them and, well, let’s just say that my idea, like the cream tub, came up empty. Oh, the things I have to endure in the name of my art. . . . 

Anyway, as the series has progressed, we have met both girls, their classmates and their families, in sadness and in joy. Now it is time to learn more about the girls themselves, more so Daisy in this book. This aspect is done so well by our author. I dare say I had not seen such thoughtful representation of characters until I started reading Middle Grade/YA books. 

I think it is often assumed/ignored in adult books and tiptoed around and over in younger age books. I shall add that this is a rounded adventure that does, like all the others, deal with matters sensitively and thoughtfully. It does it in a way that, like the clues, weaves itself seamlessly through the pages. 

So, if we were looking for candidates for this year’s Upper Much-Mousing Book of the Year Award, then this one is definitely a candidate. 

The prize for the winning author is a one-week free holiday in the Palace’s newly built holiday chalet (AKA Old Ned’s potting shed – cold running water and insect spray available on request with small surcharge payable).

Should I buy a copy?

If treading the boards, greasepaint, costumes, and all manner of murderous acts are your thing, then Murder in the Spotlight is likely to raise the curtain on an evening or fives worth of entertainment. So the answer is a resounding – Oh Yes You Should!

Want to buy a copy?

As to buying, please do support your local independent bookseller.

If you would like something extra spiffing, Round Table Books, here in the UK, can offer special editions, signed copies and pre-orders. I believe they do ship internationally too. A link to Round Table Books can be found HERE. Do drop them a line if what you want isn’t shown.

Round Table Books is “an Inclusion-led book shop” based at the heart of Brixton, London, UK. As shown on their website, their purpose is to highlight and celebrate underrepresented children’s books, writers and illustrators. It draws from as wide a range as possible of the UK and Irish publishing houses. 

Next time I will be reviewing the next major book in the series, book 8, ‘Top Marks for Murder’ the penultimate in the series. 

OK, so that is it from us here at the Palace. We will return, editorial work on our own adventure novel permitting, in a week or so time.

Till then, we hope your own spoons will be filled with nothing more sinister than lukewarm porridge! 

Until later,

Toodlepip and Purrs!

ERin

PS

Mrs H has asked me to offer this warning: Do remember choc-ices, lemonade and popcorn all cause a sticky mess. So, if participating in such delights, best not read this in bed!

Erin reviews Mistletoe & Murder!

Murder with your mince pies, anyone?

 ‘Mistletoe and Murder’ by Robin Stevens: a festive Murder Mystery book review & a Selfie!

Addicted to Mice and Mystery

Welcome one and all, to the global extravaganza that is, the Saturday Book Review!

With that dreaded season of goodwill nearly upon us, we bring you our last book review of the year.

Why dreaded I hear you ask?

Well, if you’ve ever heard the UMM (Upper Much-Mousing) choir, then you’d know why! And if the singing weren’t enough, there is the annual “Great UMM Bake-Off.” For those not familiar with the event, chefs from across UMM, who would normally for the sake of public health and safety, be banned from entering a kitchen let alone actually cooking anything, are let loose to prepare a festive meal. To avoid cheating, anyone who has any skill or can open a tin of beans, is automatically disqualified from taking part. 

The prizegiving takes place at the UMM Charity Christmas meal for those in need (and those who have no breakable teeth, or taste buds) and is generally well attended. OK, the presence of so many paramedics is unusual, but the flashing lights on the ambulances do add some cheer to the event. 

Afterwards, there is the annual Inter Village no-holds-barred ice-hockey match. Now for aficionados, there is one significant difference. The traditional puck is replaced by a selection of overbaked seasonal fare: mince pies, slices of Yule log, and Christmas puds. Mrs H tells me that they did once use turkey wings, but the aerodynamics of burnt wings were not conducive to the game staying on the rink! The winners are the team that can leave the pitch without limping or severe injury! If you plan to attend this culinary match, face masks of the steel kind are an absolute MUST! 

Erin reviews Mistletoe & Murder!
Mistletoe and Murder, the perfect Christmas read recipe!

OK, so enough of the local goings on in Upper Much-Mousing, here’s the book review. . . .

These last few weeks we have been reading book five in the Murder Most Unladylike series, titled: Mistletoe and Murder.

What’s it all about?

The setting.

It is a few days before Christmas 1935. Hazel and Daisy have managed to wangle their festive holidays staying in Cambridge with Daisy’s brother, Bertie, who is studying at Maudlin College. Now aged 14, the girls are looking forward to having an ‘adult-free’ time enjoying the delights of the city, cream teas and mincepies and cake.  

To add to the excitement Alexander, an American boy the girls met on the Orient Express (See book 3 – A First Class Murder) is also staying at another college nearby. He has come with fellow Junior Pinkerton, George, and his brother Harold. Both Alexander and George are, of course, co-chairs, and members of a rival detective society to that of the girls.

The Plot:

The girls learn that in Maudlin College, a male-only college, two of Bertie’s fellow students Donald Melling & Charles ‘Chummy’ Melling are to throw a big party. It’s their coming of age, and it happens to be Christmas day. Now it seems that Donald is always having nasty accidents, as well as being the butt of jokes played by his brother, Chummy. Nothing unusual there you may say, sort of brotherly mischief, and you would ordinarily be right. BUT, On their birthday, Donald, who is ten minutes older than Chummy, will inherit a vast fortune. He plans to spend it on a dubious sounding diamond mine somewhere, a fact that rankles Chummy no end. Tempers between the two are always flaring, and all seem to agree that Chummy should be the one to inherit. After all, he is the more likeable and more outward going, right?

But for our two sleuths, and the Pinkertons, the accidents happening to Donald can mean only one undeniable thing, someone is trying to bump Donald off. All fingers and facts point to Chummy.

Now how would you go about solving and preventing a crime that hasn’t happened? Well, the two societies come up with a plan that will hopefully not only save Donald but decide whether the girls or the boys are the best detectives. The bet is that the first society to solve the crime to be and expose the villain will win. The winner gets the credit, and the loser has to publically proclaim that they are not the best detectives in town…….

The scene is set, and the action starts in this latest adventure, but suddenly, and somewhat unexpectedly, and also inconveniently, someone else is murdered!!!

To add to the adventure, the girls have been hamstrung: girls are not allowed to be in the college, in fact, the College Master has barred them.

Will there be blood spilt between the rival detective Societies? Will Daisy and Hazel fall out again? Will, there be romance this time around, and if so, who has their eyes on whom, and will they notice?

Will you ever be able to look at Mice Pies, Mistletoe and Port in the same way ever again?

Alas, I can not say more as from here on in the story is full of clues and has more ups and downs, many literal, than you could shake a Latin textbook at. Needless to say, to get to the end, the detectives have to outwit each other and the police. Not forgetting Daisy’s intimidating Aunt Austasia, who is a Cambridge don, and some rather irritated University staff, who may have something to do with the crime/s. And all this as the clock ticks down to Christmas Day!

What did we think?

We really enjoyed this book. OK. . . . that is an understatement, it was brilliant! The plot, like the student lodgings in which the crimes and a lot of the action take place, have more ups downs and sideways moves than a snakes and ladders board, and clearly just as dangerous.

Intelligent, complex and fun, and a step up from the last adventure. This book ably reflects the time and gives a feel for the season and location – albeit in a localised way. The story does also reflect the time as far as the treatment and attitude towards women students is concerned, as well as the way non-English students were viewed. The subjects are well handled though and show the authors adeptness at writing for middle-grade and older readers alike.

Who should read this book?

We read with an open mind and to have fun. But we don’t want to be spoonfed. This book, like the others, isn’t patronising for the younger reader, and engaging for the older reader (in Mrs H’s case, the ANCIENT reader!). So definitely suitable for ages 9 upwards (to ancient). We love the format of the book/adventure which has retained the first-person narrative (from Hazel). The book also includes a plan of the location and floor levels to the students’ rooms. There are clues there if we can spot them, but if you fancy a ride, the story sails along like a punt on the River Cam, that flows through Cambridge.

Fancy having a read for Christmas? Then please do consider treating your thermal stockings to a copy. The audible version is just as good and could be winging its way into some readers virtual stocking in seconds. 

Want to buy a copy?

If you’d like a spot of crime with your cranberries or Murder with your Mince Pies, the links below will take you to Amazon. Should you happen to buy a copy, and we hope you will, Mrs H and I will earn a few pence that we will be multiplying up and passing on to our local cat and dog Rescue Centre.

However, 

All book shops across the world are feeling the effects of the Covid virus and imposed lockdowns. If you can, please do support your local bookshop first. 

If you would like something extra spiffing, Round Table Books here in the UK, can offer special editions, signed copies and pre-orders. I believe they do ship internationally too. A link to Round Table Books special orders can be found HERE.

Round Table Books is “an Inclusion-led book shop” based at the heart of Brixton, London, UK. Its purpose is to highlight and celebrate underrepresented children’s books, writers and illustrators, and draws from as wide a range as possible of UK and Irish publishing houses. Mrs H says, in an age when small is often pushed to one side by the big, shops across the world like Round Table Books, should be encouraged by us all, so we can nurture great new diverse talent.

USA Link to buy BOOK 5 ‘Mistletoe and Murder’ from Amazon.com can be found HERE   

UK Link to buy BOOK 5 ‘Mistletoe and Murder’ from Amazon.co.uk can be found HERE   

USA Link to Book 1 ‘MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE’ from Amazon.com, can be found HERE.

UK Link to Book 1 ‘MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE’ from Amazon.co.uk, can be found HERE.

USA Link to Book 2 ‘ARSENIC FOR TEA’ from Amazon.com, can be found HERE.

UK Link to Book 2 ‘ARSENIC FOR TEA’ from Amazon.co.uk, can be found HERE.

USA Link to book 3 ‘A FIRST CLASS MURDER’ from Amazon.com, can be found HERE.

UK Link to book 3 ‘A FIRST CLASS MURDER’ from Amazon.co.uk, can be found HERE.

USA Link to BOOK 4 ‘JOLLY FOUL PLAY’ from Amazon.com can be found HERE   

UK Link to BOOK 4 ‘JOLLY FOUL PLAY’ from Amazon.com can be found HERE   

And now, my pre-UMM event snoozie selfie – I’ll be needing all my energy for the big match, mainly so I can avoid the flying pies!

Next time I will be reviewing Book 6 in the series. 

OK, so that is it from us here at the Palace. We will return, injuries and indigestion permitting, some time in January, when all the empty sweet papers have been swept up and the left over turkey (Mrs H’s) has been confined to my tummy.

Till then, we wish you all a safe, happy, mince pie and pudding filled – with the occaisional sherry or five – few weeks!

Till later.

Toodlepip and Purrs!

ERin

Duvet Expert for Hire . . .

Hello and welcome to The Sunday Selfies!

We are joining The Kitties Blue, from The Cat on My Head blog, for the weekly celebration of blogs and bloggers from across the world and across the species.

To join in, get the Linky-Link code from their website– add it to your page– and enjoy the hop!

And now here is my selfie for the week:-

     

     With storm ‘Erik’ rumbling and battering the UK this week, I rather thought it was time to lay back and let the world blow by–excuse the pun.  So without further encouragement from Mrs H, I took to my bed and enjoyed a good roll on my current pink duvet, purchased from Tesco (in two tone pink) just to make sure I got my monies worth before this one hit the laundry tub.

As some quick thinking folk may have noticed, I do love checking out duvets. So with that in mind I have come up with this great idea to legitimately earn some extra and much needed funds for the palace, AND get to nap on the job: Duvet testing; specifically duvet covers.

So, if theres any purveyors of fine duvet and duvet covers out there, be they

Harrods,

Selfridges,

Walmart,

or any other fine retail outlets, that wish to be featured on the blog with yours truly, please email me ASAP to book a slot on my bed.

OR

Call my toll free number at the palace. PLEASE NOTE: A small connection fee applies as I have to pay the gardener. If you wondering what the gardener has to do with duvets– well, as Mrs H will have to answer the millions of calls that I am anticipating for this excellent service, I have to get the dairy-maid to cover for Mrs H. The dairy-maid’s job will be covered by the scullery-maid who will be covered in turn by the girl from the village that cleans my brass mousetraps. And her work will be covered by the paper delivery girl, whose round will be covered by the gardener. As he gets paid the least of all of them, it does seem like a good deal . . .  unless I can get Mrs H to cover him?  What do you think?

Anyway, next week I will be sporting a nice matching pillow and duvet combo in pale pink and white, brought to you by IKEA bedding. You can find the link to my duvet set clicking HERE.

 What will you guys be testing next week? 

To see what our pals are up to this week, please go to the Kitties Blue site, or if available, click the links below, and Enjoy the Hop!

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

BEETLE BOY

By M.G.Leonard

An adventure book review by Erin the Cat Princess

Erin the Cat: Addicted to Murder Mystery and Mice (NOT necessarily in that order!)

Hello, and welcome to my Saturday Book Review!

This week, we will be reviewing a rather brilliant book about beetles. In fact, there are three books to this series, so at some point, we will hopefully entice you to become beetle fans, too.

Beetles, I hear you shout; surely cats chase beetles and bugs because they’re nasty things. All the movies show them as such?

Well, that was sort of how I felt, too. And indeed, I had not read anything to the contrary.

That is, until now. . . . . 

BEETLE BOY, By M.G. Leonard

Published by Chicken House Publishing

The Plot: 

Darkus Cuttle, the 13-year-old son of Dr Bartholomew Cuttle, widower, has lost his dad. Well, more accurately, having dropped Darkus off at school, his dad went to the Natural History Museum from where he inexplicably VANISHED. Vanished from a locked room from which there was no other exit than the door he entered and definitely didn’t leave by. 

Darkus’s uncle Max, a renowned archaeologist, takes him under his wing. Darkus, having moved into his uncle’s flat over a health food shop, has to attend a new school. It is there that he is befriended by two fellow students, Virginia and Bertolt. Things are rough for Darkus, and the school’s cowardly bullies try to harass him. But with Virginia’s timely rescue, he gets by.

Now, that is all scene-setting and introductions. The real fun of this adventure starts when Uncle Max’s neighbours, Humphrey (an ogre of a man) and Pickering (thin, with unruly yellowing teeth and ill-fitting clothes), brawl in the street. The two can only be described as a nasty pair of bickering, probably incompetent cousins. Each is intent on domineering the other and opening their own shop in the premises they jointly inherited. As Darkus sits on the other side of the road and watches safely, a beetle falls from Humphrey’s trouser leg and makes his way to the kerb where Darkus sits. 

Of course, this beetle isn’t your ordinary beetle that a cat would happily play with, but the size of a hamster and with a rather sharp looking horn. It also seems to be seeking Darkus out! How could that possibly be, the unbelieving amongst us would say. Well, this dude is more than he appears. If Darkus had any doubts that the beetle was trying to talk to him, they were put aside when the beetle helped scare off the bullies that re-entered the scene.

To skip a little bit forwards, what happens next is Darkus, Virginia, and Bertolt join up to try and find Dr Cuttle. Max is also on the case but from another direction. 

At this point, I am coming perilously close to giving away too much. But what I will say is, we meet Lucretia Cutter, a geneticist. She and Dr Cuttle worked together but had, a long time past, parted company. Now whether Lucretia is good or bad remains to be seen, and her connection to Darkus’s father’s disappearance is, well, uncertain. One sure thing is that she likes beetles and intends to find some she genetically engineered and lost. 

OK, that’s as far as I dare go with tempting you. There is a lot more fun, action and adventure to be had in this book, and it would be a shame to give away too much.

So, what did we think?

Until I read this book, I hadn’t even begun to consider the beetle community in all its beauty, variety and even ferocity – in a self-defence kind of way. But it opened my eyes, like so many other readers, onto a whole new world. Believe me when I say that Mrs H and I will be putting up places for beetles to rest up in the garden and even designated beetle crossing points on the palaces drive. I persoanlly wont be bringing any home to…. er…. play with any long!

This book is must-read for the young aspiring ‘Entomologist’ (I guess that means me and anyone who studies insects) and reader. Personally, those little, and not so little, insect guys do so much for us that we should take the time to learn more. 

Brilliantly written for readers of age 9 and upwards, this book helps teach, too. It had me hooked, and I went and got Mrs H’s credit card and ordered the next two! Just as well I did, as, by the time I got to the end of this, I so needed another beetle fix. 

The book has some lovely illustrations too, by Júlia Sardà, that add to the flavour of the beetle adventure. 

Noted author, Katherine Woodfine, is quoted on the back cover of this book and says “A darkly funny Dahl-esque adventure.”  I think that is so true, and quite a recommendation in itself. 

 I would like to add that M.G. Leonard has written many excellent kids books that work really well for adult readers too. If you like trains, you HAVE to check out her “Adventures on Trains’ series of mystery adventures she co-authored with Sam Sedgman. We have, and they are well worth the price of the fare!

Want to buy a copy?

If you’d like a copy of Beetle Boy to add some entomological adventure into your life, then please do BEETLE along to your local bookshop first. 

Beetle Boy is published by Chicken House. A link to their website can be found HERE. 

M.G. Leonards website link can be found HERE.

Till next time, when we may well be reviewing Book 2 in this series, entitled Beetle Queen, we wish you a bug friendly week!

Till later.

Toodlepip and Purrs!

ERin