Top Marks for Murder, by Robin Stevens.
A Murder Mystery book review by Erin the Cat Princess.
It’s finally Saturday, and that means it’s time for my Saturday Book Review!
But first, a quick word from our sponsor with a look at my week here at the Palace.
The summer here in Upper Much-Mousing, set deep in the tiny English county of East Lambtonshire, has been pretty much business as usual. Now most of the crops are in, I’ve been preparing for one of the events for which Lower, and Upper Much-Mousing were and are known – MouseFest.
As the lady of the manor, I also hold the honorary title of ‘The Majestic Much-Mousing Mouse Muncher Mistress’. Thankfully it is a title that has no requirement for a minimum waist size. What I have to do is inspect the fields for mice. Once I have found the best field, I then select the best points for the competitors to station themselves for the night of the hunt.
It is hard work and requires many hours of nighttime observation and patience (as well as restraint) on my part to pick the best spots. I should stress that competing cats from the neighbourhood are checked before the competition to ensure they don’t bring their own mice to add to their tally.
This year’s hot favourite is Bertie, mouse-catcher in residence at the local inn. He has quite a following (not from the mice) though I think he is a bit on the stout side from, well, too much stout. My favourite, and a small amount of my piggy bank, is riding on Mavis, the baker’s cat. She has a rigorous exercise routine that includes kneading the dough to builder upper arm strength. She also does resistance training stretching out the dough so Dorothy, the baker, can make those fancy plaited loaves.
The outsider for this years event, a black cat called Sid from the undertakers, is definitely worth an each-way bet. Not the chatty sort that guy, but patient and silent as the . . . well you get my drift.
Me, I’ll be sat with Mrs H in the Much-Mousing Tea Rooms, an extension to Mrs Singhs Food Emporium, enjoying a hard-earned nap in advance of the prize-giving. And naturally, I’ll be checking out this year’s prize, which was kindly donated by Johnson’s Cream Bar – a years supply of fresh double cream!
I shall post the results of the event just as soon as we recover from the awards ceremony.
Oh, just in case you are interested, the second prize is a year’s membership to the village gym! Methinks they should amalgamate those two prizes, don’t you!
Anyways, enough of my rustic village life; let’s get on with the review!
This week we review the next book in the ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ series, ‘Top Marks for Murder’, by the wonderful Mrs Robin Stevens.
The adventure starts as our heroines, aged nearly 15, return to Deepdean School for Girls after their escapades in London. They have settled back into being just ordinary schoolgirls and all that goes with that.
The year is 1936. The month, July. The upcoming event is the 50th Anniversary Weekend of the Deepdean School for Young Ladies. The girls’ parents, many of them ex-pupils, are invited to a weekend celebration. It will be full of banquets and events, academic and athletic, indoors and out, put on by the pupils and with parent participation.
So far, so good. And with things planned to a T, and the girls all dressed up and on their best behaviour, then everything should be OK.
But of course, a murder mystery would not be such without a murder. And Deepdean School, for those that have followed the series, is now about to get its third. To make matters worse, if it’s not solved by the girls come the end of the event, it will be its last as the school will close, permanently.
If that wasn’t enough, whilst Daisy and Hazel have been away, a new girl has arrived at Deepdean from a posh school in Cairo. Amina is in the year below Hazel and Daisy. With stunning good looks and perfect manners towards the teachers, she has stolen the light from Daisy. It is fair to say Daisy is not at all pleased.
When one of the younger students, Beanie, spots from afar what she believes is a murder being committed in the woods at the edge of the grounds, the deadly game is afoot.
When the girls go off to investigate, they find two clues. One points to a French connection, and the other, most shockingly, to one or other of the murderer or victim, or both, being a parent or member of the school council coming to the school. But what they don’t find is a body.
Not much to go on. And one could say without a body, there is no murder and thus no case. But Daisy and Hazel feel otherwise. With the help of the other members of the Detective Society – Lavinia, Kitty and Beanie – and the police, they set about spying on the parents when they arrive for the weekend celebrations. At least, on those that have come. But what of those that haven’t? Is one of those the victim, or maybe they’re the murderer! So, whilst the girls work on their allotted tasks for the big occasion, they have to wheedle out information from the adults.
What they find is a complicated web of long-buried rivalries and relationships between the adults and secrets that maybe should stay buried. This WILL be a weekend for revelation and murders and also family feud and sadness. Fair play and foul.
As with all reviews, there comes the chapter/point where we have to let the new reader carry on and find out for themselves.
What did we think?
I really liked this book. It was thankfully and rightly quite different to the two previous mysteries centred on the school. It is pretty complex, and there is far more fun and games than I have been able to give the book credit for in this short summary. Rest assured, as we reach the climax, there will be a feast of entertainment and crime to make you think twice about the guests at your table and place settings!
Of the books so far, this goes further into relationships and friendships. It also acts, I think, as a springboard to show how much the girls have changed. It also shows how in life, that change can happen in such a short time. I like that. Yet, I get a real sense that the youthfulness of the other adventures is being left behind.
So, it may not come as a surprise that this is the penultimate book in this series. It will also not be a surprise if I say that of the books so far, I think this is not my favourite.
It is nothing to do with the adventure, just my taste and the loss of innocence as the characters grow. But I am pleased to say that this book is right up there and is both engaging and entertaining. It is also very much on a par with an Agatha Christie novel. That in itself is, Mrs H says, much credit to the skill of Robin Stevens as the author.
Should I buy a copy?
Absolutely. I would say this is an essential part of the series and not to be missed. Taken as a whole series, I think you’ll want to read this so you go into the finale ready for what will happen, and believe me, it happens in an absolute spiffing fashion.
Want to buy a copy?
As ever, if you are going to buy, 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 special orders can be found HERE. If you cant see what you are after, then do drop them an email.
We will return, editorial work on our own adventure novel permitting, in a week or so, and will be reviewing the FINAL book in this series, book 9. It is a classic adventure and one not to be missed.
So, pack yourselves a case and join Mrs H and me as we head off for an adventure on the Nile, with ‘Death Sets Sail’.
I hope you enjoyed our review and a peek at life here at the Palace.
Till then, we hope your school report doesn’t look like mine and say ‘A very trying pupil!’
Toodlepip and Purrs!