Title: Death Sets Sail
Author: Robin Stevens
Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime
Published: 1st September 2020
Synopsis: The final novel in the number-one bestselling, award-winning Murder Most Unladylike series.
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are in Egypt, where they are taking a cruise along the Nile. They are hoping to see some ancient temples and a mummy or two; what they get, instead, is murder.
Also travelling on the SS Hatshepsut is a mysterious society called the Breath of Life: a group of genteel English ladies and gentlemen, who believe themselves to be reincarnations of the ancient pharaohs. Three days into the cruise their leader, Theodora Miller, is found dead in her cabin, stabbed during the night. It soon becomes clear to Daisy and Hazel that Theodora’s timid daughter Hephzibah, who is prone to sleepwalking, is being framed. And within the society, everyone has a reason to want Theodora dead…
Daisy and Hazel leap into action and begin to investigate their most difficult case yet. But there is danger all around, and only one of the Detective Society will make it home alive…
Daisy and Hazel are off to Egypt with fellow Deepdean student, Amina El Maghrabi and Hazel’s father and younger sisters, Rose and May. Aboard the SS Hatshepsut, they encounter the Breath of Life – a strange and mysterious cult-like society that appropriates Ancient Egyptian beliefs and put themselves forward as reincarnated Pharaohs – something Amina quite rightly points out is offensive to Egyptian culture and history. The story, as usual is told by Hazel in one of the Detective Society casebooks, and recounts the days spent sailing to Aswan, and the murder that leads to an unforeseeable tragedy that could rip the Detective Society apart forever.
When the head of the society is found dead, Daisy, Amina, Hazel and the Junior Pinkertons, George and Alexander begin to investigate, and with the finger pointing at everyone in the society, and for different reasons, only the Detective Society – with a little help from May, can solve! Together, they examine what they know, and pick apart how the society works, and how they misinterpret Egyptian religion. Again, there are themes of colonialism and privilege at play amidst the wonderfully written diverse characters, who seamlessly work together to create a fabulous and enticing mystery.
Overbearing Theodora Miller is dead, her daughter Heppy is the prime suspect, and the detective society is convinced of her innocence. But is she? The clues set out are cleverly contrived to distract and place a multitude of red herrings in the path of the intrepid young detectives, and that are set out so the reader can try and solve the case with the main characters.
Robin Stevens delivers everything we need to know when we need to know it, and lets us know why, even though it might not always be obvious. It packs a punch where it needs to and is action-packed as the three-day sojourn unfolds. This book brings ancient and modern Egypt to life – modern in terms of Amina, Daisy and Hazel’s in 1936 on the precipice of World War Two, and the differences are illustrated, but the past and its importance shines through wonderfully.
We’re away from Deepdean in this book, but it is there in spirit with the girls, and we still feel its presence and the thematic element of boarding schools in so many school stories. Students at boarding schools seem to have jolly good adventures! There are themes that weave throughout the series, like murder, but each book is its own case, and each gives enough hints at what has come before so I could read this, only having read the previous one. Yet it also makes me want to go back and read the others and come back through the series chronologically.
Mixed with Christie and Sherlockian aspects, this is a wonderful cozy mystery for readers aged twelve and over. I loved the processes Daisy, Hazel and Amina used, the setting and everything else. It shows that Robin has done exceptional and what must have been very interesting research to write this book, and balanced the world of the 1930s, ideas of colonialism and disrespect, and a world where everyone accepts each other for who they are, where race, sexuality and gender are present and given positive representation. I loved the development of Daisy and Amina’s relationship, and I must say, I am going to miss seeing more of this play out. But May is the kind of character who needs her own series, and I loved all these characters, and so many aspects of this novel. I’m in the process of getting the rest of the series, so I can read them all.
I simply adored the mystery, the setting and the diverse representation across the novel, and think readers will feel pleasure, hoy and heartbreak throughout this novel as it slowly unfolds and then explodes with a heart-stopping conclusion that brings the series to a heartfelt conclusion. But never fear, we can always go back and revisit our friends at Deepdean when we re-read the books!