Murder is Bad Manners: A Wells and Wong Mystery

320p. S. & S. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481422123; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481422147.
Gr 4–7—A cozy murder mystery with manifest charms, this series opener introduces a pair of boarding school sleuths covertly detecting a death no one else realizes has occurred. Narrator Hazel Wong, a sturdy Hong Kong transplant, and charismatic English Rose Daisy Wells forge a friendship based on their mutual deception of their classmates, concealing their abundant intelligence during lessons and instead deploying it in the service of the Wells & Wong Detective Society. Thought Hazel adopts the lingo of the native students, her pleasant, frank narration displays her outsider status, a perspective that helps guide readers through the logistical and social nuances of their 1930s British countryside school. The mystery proves a twisty but conventional story replete with concealed relationships, professional jealousy, and genre-bound clues. Fresher and more compelling is the tension between the two detectives. Even as the friends remain bonded in cleverness, Hazel develops a conscientious concern for students and staff along with anxiety at tracking a murderer; her caution sparks conflict with Daisy's gleeful curiosity and unperturbable confidence. A recent spate of boarding school settings means this novel shares some DNA with several 2014 offerings, especially Julie Berry's puzzler, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (Roaring Brook), a spiky story that flaunts its affectations. But Stevens's engaging tale shines with the reflected charms of its detecting duo, a winsome combination of thoughtfulness and relish.—Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY
Pals Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells are desperate for a mystery to solve, but when Hazel finds the dead body of teacher Miss Bell, she's absolutely gobsmacked. The details of the girls' friendship and the 1930s English boarding school setting are just swell, and readers who fancy mysteries will have masses of fun with this ace murder story.

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