Saturday, 16 December 2017

December Blitz 16: Review - Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

Hi everyone! For today's December Blitz I thought I'd review a book I just finished from my Christmas TBR and that is Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens! It was the first book I've read in her Murder Most Unladylike series (After checking I could without spoiling the previous ones) and I absolutely adored it! I have the first book ready and waiting to be read and am sure I'll be picking the other ones up when I next go shopping, perhaps in the sales?

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea-rooms - but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College.

Two days before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. At least, it appears to be an accident - until the Detective Society look a little closer, and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).

As I said Mistletoe and Murder was a wonderful book, both for Christmas and in its own right any other time of the year. First and foremost as a Christmas book it was wonderfully festive. Of course a murder mystery in itself isn't particularly festive, and both Daisy and Hazel address this within the book, but set against the backdrop of Cambridge, festooned with snow and Christmas merriment, I certainly got a whole heap of festive feelings. I also found that the race against the clock t find the culprit before Christmas Day an entertaining reversal of the usual happy countdown to Christmas. Where we would normally wish to whittle the days away, eagerly counting down the hours, Daisy and Hazel were making every second count, working against the pressure of such a looming deadline.

The world of Cambridge itself was wonderfully described. Having visited once myself and walked around a lot of the town, including along the river Cam, I could quite easily picture each and every scene with vivid detail. I wasn't just reading a book, I was vicariously living it.

Although the fifth book in the series (Not including novella's or compilations) being that it's my first, as said previously, I want to address the wonderful characters populating the novel. Daisy and Hazel are, both together and individually in their own right, wonderful heroines. Strong both apart and together it is their individuality and their ability to work so closely and so well with one another that not only pushed forward the actual murder plotline, but also fills the novel with such vivacity and energy that you simply do not want to put it down. Their friendship, almost a sisterhood, is something to be both reckoned with and envied. The other characters were also unique and individual, perfectly crafted to the point where they feel real and alive. Each one both added to the story itself, to the world, while also being a quite viable culprit in Daisy and Hazel's investigation. Specifically though I loved Alexander Arcady and George Mukherjee, rival detectives to Daisy and Hazel. They too were crafted both individually and to work well as a team, just as Daisy and Hazel, and I felt they added so much to the story. Not only was it intriguing to see how all four characters played against one another, but also to see how they worked when in competition, a somewhat more lighter element against the murder plotline and the darker secrets revealed beneath Cambridge's glamour.

The plot itself was incredibly well developed, with so many plot twists I could scarcely take my eyes away. I won't say too much but it's definitely very satisfying, and highly enjoyable. I especially loved the pages of handwritten notes to show where the girls were up to with their suspects during the investigation. These acted almost like an update or mini-summary for the reader, to make sure they stayed informed and weren't lost within the sometimes complex plot. It was wonderful to read. If you're looking for a suspense filled mystery, look no further!

I also really want to talk about the diversity in this book and how some of it was addressed, because I think it was just done so wonderfully. Hazel, along with brothers George and Harold Mukherjee, and a character called Alfred Cheng, all have a non-british heritage. Being that the book is set in the 1930's this is a decision made by the author that has great importance. At this time in our history there was a lot of ethnic prejudice in Britain, where only money seemed to be a somewhat overriding factor, and even then only just. This is a very important message, especially in our day now where prejudice is still rife, that runs throughout the novel. One scene that specifically stood out was where Hazel and Daisy were discussing Alfred as a suspect, and Hazel said they had to make 100% sure before they accused him, because there was little chance his side of the story might be listened to and a fair trial given. Representation is such an important aspect of literature and it is these very strong messages contained within what is a middle grade novel that will stand the test of time and help to inform generations to come of what true equality and love are really about. Furthermore there were a few lines at the end of the book regarding Harold and Bertie that make me wonder if a homoromantic relationship might be part of the next book, something which would be equally important, and which I would look forward to reading myself.

Overall I give Mistletoe and Murder a well deserved 5 stars and can't wait to pick up the other books in the series!

What are your thoughts on Mistletoe and Murder if you've read it? As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

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