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