Silver by Chris Hammer

Silver.jpgTitle: Silver

Author: Chris Hammer

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 576

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Martin Scarsden returns in the sequel to the bestselling Scrublands.

For half a lifetime, journalist Martin Scarsden has run from his past. But now there is no escaping.

He’d vowed never to return to his hometown, Port Silver, and its traumatic memories. But now his new partner, Mandy Blonde, has inherited an old house in the seaside town and Martin knows their chance of a new life together won’t come again.

Martin arrives to find his best friend from school days has been brutally murdered, and Mandy is the chief suspect. With the police curiously reluctant to pursue other suspects, Martin goes searching for the killer. And finds the past waiting for him.

He’s making little progress when a terrible new crime starts to reveal the truth. The media descend on Port Silver, attracted by a story that has it all: sex, drugs, celebrity and religion. Once again, Martin finds himself in the front line of reporting.

Yet the demands of deadlines and his desire to clear Mandy are not enough: the past is ever present.

An enthralling and propulsive thriller from the acclaimed and bestselling author of Scrublands.

~*~

I read Chris Hammer’s first book when it came out last year, and what was interesting about it was that it was more about why the crime happened, rather than the who or how. In the sequel, Silver, the focus is on clearing a single person – Mandalay Blonde – who is Martin’s girlfriend. When Martin arrives back in Port Silver, he is confronted with the murder of an old friend, Jasper Speight, and Mandalay’s supposed guilt. The set-up is promising, no doubt, because a death in Martin’s hometown has the potential to be intricate and, in some ways, it was There were many engaging sections, and at the same time, many that felt like they meandered too much.

I did enjoy it when the crimes were discussed and mixed into the recipe – for me, these were the most interesting parts. I wanted a resolution to the accusations against Mandalay – and we got one, of course – there always has to be, I just wish the baking journey had spent a little more time on the crime rather than just exploring the personal side – both of these can be done equally and I think, in far fewer pages than 580.

At the same time, Martin must confront his past and the people from it – which is done very heavily, and in a very meandering way – I felt this took away from the main murder, and also, from some of the more interesting aspects of the novel even though it seemed to have some baring on what happened, it felt abrupt when it appeared and it wasn’t always clear when we were flashing back into the past. Whilst intriguing and necessary, I had hoped some of these flashbacks were clearer, and it all led to something that I thought came quite out of the blue. Though it gave the characters and story something interesting to do, and explained some of the things earlier on, it came on all too quickly and maybe could have been dealt with earlier and without dropping vague hints – this was one of the aspects I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I should have. The family tragedy and drama is very interesting – and would have been more interesting if some things didn’t feel as though they faded into the distance – without knowing something strange was simmering and cooking away, the Big Reveal felt a bit abrupt.

The one plotline I had hoped would have more meat and intrigue to it was about the cult storyline appears properly more than halfway through and bubbles away until the real crime that occurs there and is loosely linked to the original crime smashes into being in an abrupt way. Cult stories today are much of a muchness. But a cult were crimes might actually happen is an intriguing idea. This had the potential to be really well executed.  Something seems to have interfered somewhere in the process, however, because we ended up with something not as satisfying, and that felt rushed. Perhaps if the preparation had been slower and more detailed, this part of the plot may have had a better outcome. Whilst a lot of the book has worked, it appeared parts of it were rushed and the speed at which it was concluded left me feeling disappointed that this didn’t get as much attention. Then adding a new idea close to the end, without enough setting up left me a bit lost, because that also would have been interesting to tease out a bit more. New ideas should be teased out and added far earlier. In some ways, this did make sense, but in others, I feel like suggesting these things earlier could have made for a better story. Overall, there were many elements I liked, but these faded into the background.

There are elements that work here – many that do, and some that don’t. Whilst the ending was satisfying in some ways, in others it didn’t, but I hope this book works for the fans and others who enjoy this kind of thing. It did have promise, and I do think had some meandering parts been sacrificed to focus on crimes, or at least, some things that happened more than once been tightened a little, this would have worked much better for me. I do hope there are people out there who will like this novel, but in this instance, this just didn’t work for me the way I had hoped it would.

September 2019 Round Up

Readings and Musings on all things books, Aussie authors and everything in between

 

This month, I reached my overall reading goal of 150 books with Whisper by Lynette Noni. Overall, I have reached 71 books in my Australian Women Writer’s challenge, and am nearing the end of my PopSugar Challenge, with only a few categories left. I also filled out my Book Bingo card for the year, with my final wrap up post to be written after my final post for that goes live.

#Dymocks52Challenge

Here is a breakdown of what I read.

September Round-Up – 15    

Book Author Challenge
The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle Kate Forsyth General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
A Lighthouse in Time Sandra Bennett General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
New Coach Tim Cahill General, #Dymocks52Challenge
488 Rules for Life Kitty Flanagan General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Silver Chris Hammer General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Beauty, Beast and Belladonna

 

Maia Chance General, #Dymocks52Challenge
There Was Still Love

 

Favel Parrett General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Rebel Women who Changed Australia

 

Susanna de Vries General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Book Bingo
Binder of Doom: Boa Constructor Troy Cummings General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Deathless Girls Kiran Millwood Hargrave General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth Philip Pullman General, #Dymocks52Challenge, Book Bingo
The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch Tom Fletcher General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Dragon Masters: The Land of the Spring Dragon Tracey West General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
The Mitford Scandal Jessica Fellowes General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Whisper

 

Lynette Noni General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019,

2019 Badge

  1. The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth
  2. A Lighthouse in Time by Sandra Bennett
  3. Tiny Timmy: The New Coach by Tim Cahill
  4. 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan
  5. Boa Constructor (Binder of Doom) by Troy Cummings
  6. Silver by Chris Hammer
  7. Beauty, Beast and Belladonna by Maia Chance
  8. There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett
  9. Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries
  10. The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  11. The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
  12. The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch by Tom Fletcher
  13. Dragon Masters: The Land of the Spring Dragon by Tracey West
  14. The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes
  15. Whisper by Lynette Noni

 

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n

Book Bingo

 

Rows Across:

 

Row One: BINGO

 

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

 – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

A novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

 

Row Two: BINGO

 

A book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

 

Row Three: BINGO

 

Themes of Science Fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Themes of Culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

 

Row Four: – BINGO

 

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

 

Row Five: BINGO

 

Written by an Australian Man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Written by an Australian Woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

 

Row Six: BINGO

 

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

 

Rows Down:

 

Row One:  – BINGO

 

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019,

Themes of science fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

 

Row Two: BINGO

 

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018      

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Book set in the Australian outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

 

Row three: BINGO

 

Novel that has 500 pages or more: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

 – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Book set on the Australian coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

 

Row Four: – BINGO

 

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Themes of inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

 

Row Five: BINGO

 

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

 

 

Of these, due to work obligations, not as many were Australian Women as I would have liked but will aim to get more read in the coming months. Other challenges will hopefully be filled in then as well so I can add those lists in towards the end of the year and in my final wrap up posts for each challenge.

 

Until next month!

The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes

Mitford Scandal.jpgTitle: The Mitford Scandal

Author: Jessica Fellowes

Genre: Historical Fiction/Crime

Publisher: Sphere/Hachette

Published: 24th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 380

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: The newly married and most beautiful of the Mitford sisters, Diana, hot-steps around Europe with her husband and fortune heir Bryan Guinness, accompanied by maid Louisa Cannon, as well as some of the most famous and glamorous luminaries of the era. But murder soon follows, and with it, a darkness grows in Diana’s heart . . .

This wonderful new book in the bestselling THE MITFORD MURDERS series sees the Mitford sisters at a time of scandalous affairs, political upheaval and murder.

The year is 1928, and fortune heir Bryan Guinness weds eighteen-year-old Diana, most beautiful of the six Mitford sisters. The newlyweds begin a whirlwind life zipping between London’s Mayfair, chic Paris and romantic Venice. Accompanying Diana is Louisa Cannon, as well as a coterie of friends, family and hangers-on, from Nancy Mitford to Evelyn Waugh.

But when one of their party is found dead in Paris in 1930, Louisa begins to think that they might have a murderer in their midst. As the hedonism of the age spirals out of control, shadows darken across Europe…and within the heart of Diana Mitford herself.

~*~

After three books, starting in the early to mid-1920s. we are now headed towards a series of events in world history that plunges Europe and the world into the Great Depression and World War Two. Against the backdrop of impending economic crisis in the years following the end of World War One, or what was known in the 1920s as The Great War, there are hints at unrest in Europe, especially Germany. This is filtered through the only Mitford brother, Tom, who appears every now and then, discussing the politics of the day and setting up what is to come, and what we know happened with the six Mitford sisters during the war for the books that are to come, presumably focusing on Unity, Jessica (Decca) and Deborah (Debo).

Louisa and Nancy are perhaps the key anchors throughout these books, as well as the rest of the Mitfords, occupying much of the action, especially Louisa, who is reunited with Guy, her policeman friend in this book when some maids at a Mitford party fall through a skylight, and die, and another vanishes, setting in motion a side mystery.  Yet the key mystery begins in Paris, and weaves in and out across the early 1930s as death touches the Mitford-Guinness party across the years in mystery deepens, and ebbs and flows as suspects are interviewed until the death of the prime suspect seems to bring a halt to the case – which ends up being much more complicated than anyone first thought.

This series takes real life people, fictional people and uses the world and politics they existed within to create mysteries that are engaging and thrilling to read. The pacing of them fits the setting and ensures a desire to read on – especially when things seem to wrap up too neatly, that as a reader, I knew there was more to what had happened. Something had to give because it was all too easy.

Simmering beneath the mystery is the growing tensions of post-war Europe, and the clashing of political ideologies, such as communism, fascism, democracy and Nazism – with some characters expressing an interest in Nazis and indeed suggesting they would support them. This is chilling as we know what the Nazi regime eventually led to. Reading about these people, even in a fictional way, before they became embroiled in and deeply connected to the Nazi regime and ideology is chilling because instead of reading them just as Nazis, we get to see how they start to gravitate towards this ideology and the scandal that it eventually caused within society and their family. What it leads it is an ending where whilst the crime may be solved, the family and those around them – and the reader – will be plunged into a world where nothing is certain, and where Louisa may soon find she does not know who she can trust.

I have been following this series since it first started, and have been loving it, looking forward to seeing what happens next. As we descend into fractious politics that will divide family and a coming war, it is starting to sit comfortably alongside the Rowland Sinclair mysteries as a series that combines family, politics and murder and the world of the 1930s to create stories that are engaging and thrilling.

To the Land of Long-Lost Friends by Alexander McCall-Smith

land of longlost friendsTitle: To the Land of Long-Lost Friends

Author: Alexander McCall-Smith

Genre: Cosy Crime

Publisher: Little Brown/Hachette

Published: 10th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 230

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The next charming and heart-warming installment in the NO.1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY series, from bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith. This is Mma Ramotswe’s twentieth wonderful adventure.

The latest installment from the beloved THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY series…

TO THE LAND OF LONG-LOST FRIENDS

At a wedding, Mma Ramotswe bumps into a long-lost friend, Calviniah, who confesses that her only daughter Nametso has inexplicably turned away from her. Not only that, an old acquaintance has simultaneously lost all her money and found solace in a charismatic ex-mechanic turned reverend, who has seemingly cast a spell over several ladies in the region. With little work on at the agency, Precious and her colleague Mma Makutsi see no harm in investigating these curious situations. Meanwhile, part-time detective Charlie is anxious. He has few prospects and little money, so how can he convince his beloved Queenie-Queenie’s father to approve of their marriage?

As Precious and Mma Makutsi dig deeper into the stories of Nametso and the mysterious reverend, Precious once again ponders the human condition. She chooses to believe in goodness, that true equality can be found with one another. But in this world, can that assumption be justified? It will take all her ingenuity and moral good sense to get to the heart of the matter.

~*~

Mma Ramotswe is back and is attending a wedding when she sees someone whom she believes to be dead – yet it has been a case of mistaken identity, and this is where the mystery begins. She discovers that her friend’s daughter has become distant, and as she begins looking into Nametso’s strange behaviour, she also stumbles upon a case of a reverend who appears to be taking advantage of women. With Mma Makutsi and Charlie, she begins to look into each case, and helps out at the Orphan Farm as well, while Charlie grapples with how to impress Queenie-Queenie’s father.

Each crime or case is a personal one – and each shows the flaws and strengths of each character, and reveals something of the human nature, and how some people will take advantage of those who are vulnerable or easily manipulated. Throughout the novel, the world of Botswana comes through. All sides are shown through the eyes of Mma Ramotswe and how she sees the world, and wishes the world to be, which is in direct contrast to Mma Makutsi’s pragmatism and superior sense of self – she did receive 97 per cent at the secretarial college after all, which she never lets anyone forget (poor Charlie and Precious must be tired of hearing about it by now). And sitting in between, is Charlie, who wishes to marry the woman he loves and prove himself to be a good detective, but finds that he has doubts about marriage, but loads of confidence when it comes to being a detective – and I think he is quite good at it.

Working separately and together, Precious, Mma Makutsi and Charlie follow people and talk to whomever they can about the crimes, slowly revealing what is going on and resolving the questions set to them by those who have come to ask them for help.

This is one of those series that can be read in order, or one can jump around, yet I think reading them in order will give you a better understanding and make it more enjoyable in the long run. Drawing on the clash of cultures and how people adapt, this book is a great addition to the series and characters created twenty books ago.

Corella Press Blog Tour: Interview with Kathleen Jennings

Hi Kathleen, and welcome to The Book Muse.

When did you first start illustrating for books, and what attracted you to doing so?

 I’ve always drawn on things (lecture notes, people), but I started seriously illustrating about ten years ago, when my first book cover (for Greer Gilman’s Cloud & Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales, from Small Beer Press) was published.

I love stories and storytelling, and that is what attracted me to illustrating: this very immediate, physical way of telling tales and playing in other people’s stories.

 Have you always enjoyed drawing and illustrating? What other things do you enjoy?

 Yes, although I planned to do something with prose before I started working on my art. I remember a Little Red Riding Hood book we had with beautiful soft illustrations, and Garth William’s illustrations for the Little House books, and of course (and most of all) Pauline Baynes’s illustrations for Narnia: illustrations have always been important to me, but I enjoy it more the more I do it. Levelling up, getting a bit more control, pulling off an effect I’ve been trying to get right.

I also write (I have an Australian Gothic novella, Flyaway, coming out from Tor.com next year!), and do a bit of research and tutoring at university, and I’ve been a lawyer and a translator, among other things.

 What is your favourite medium to use when illustrating?

 I really enjoy the graphic simplicity and mystery and engineering considerations of cut-paper silhouettes, like these Corella illustrations. But I also enjoy the chatty narrative possibilities of pen-and-ink (a proper dip pen with a Hunt Crowquill 102 nib), and I do a lot of documentary/life sketching with Pitt marker pens. Lately I’ve been playing around with linocuts, as well. So: all of them! But I’m very fond of having a strong traditional media base, although I often tidy things up digitally and add digital colour.

 How long have you been working with Corella Press?

 I’ve been working with Corella since they started and I designed their logo! So many sketches of little parrots.

 

 Do you work primarily with Corella Press, or are there other authors and places you work with?

 I work with lots of publishers and individual authors. Small Beer Press have been with me from the very beginning, but I’ve worked with Tor.com, Candlewick, Little, Brown, Simon & Schuster, and Walker Books UK. Locally, I’ve worked with Ticonderoga, Twelfth Planet and Fablecroft, among others. And I do a lot of work with Angela Slatter, a Brisbane-based British Fantasy and World Fantasy Award winning author.

 Did you enjoy creating the artwork for the books being released in this series?

 The artwork for these Corella covers has been a great deal of fun. The books weren’t selected when we started, so I was needing to design a matched, linked set of images that saidAustralian Mystery and Crime, and then incorporate elements specific to each book as those emerged, and make them beautiful, too — or at least pleasing to me.

 It’s a ridiculously fine and lacy piece, too — about 29cm round and all hand-cut, and such a pleasure to pick up and peer at the world through.

 What are your plans for future projects?

 So many! I’ve just finished a map and ornaments for Holly Black’s Queen of Nothingand chapter headers for the 10thanniversary edition of Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel. There are a few secret projects with favourite authors in the works, but a fairy-tale book with Juliet Marillier, through Serenity Press, has been announced. And I want to experiment more with linocut illustrations.

 Do you have any artists or illustrators who inspired you, or whose work you always enjoy seeing? Who are they and why?

 So many! It’s hard to choose. But Rovina Cai’s work is enchanting, and Charles Vess’s illustrations have always been an inspiration. Pauline Baynes is the first illustrator I recognised as such: she isNarnia to me, but it’s her illustrations for Tolkien (especially Farmer Giles of Ham) that taught me a lot about the fun and possibilities of it. At the moment I’m collecting Angela Barrett’s and Evaline Ness’s picture books — Evaline Ness’s Do You Have The Time, Lydia, in particular, is vigorous and human and an important reminder to just do the work that needs to be done.

 

Kathleen also sent through these concept sketches of the artwork she created:

Web-KJennings-CorellaThumbnails
Credit: Kathleen Jennings (c) – Preliminary sketches of final cover art for Corella Press, sent to me by the illustrator for use. 

 

Thanks Kathleen

 

 

 

Cover Reveal for Corella Press Blog Tour – 27th August

At the end of August, Corella Press are publishing two instalments of the 19th Century Australian Crime and Mystery Collection.

Below are two covers designed by illustrator, Kathleen Jennings, which I think are really cleverly created, and give a good idea of what the stories might contain.

If you’re in Queensland, the launch is on the 30th of August, 2019, at Avid Reader bookshop.

Top Marks for Murder (A Murder Most Unladylike #8) by Robin Stevens

Top Marks for Murder.jpgTitle: Top Marks for Murder (A Murder Most Unladylike #8)

Author: Robin Stevens

Genre: Historical Fiction/Crime

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 6th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $16.99

Synopsis:Daisy and Hazel are finally back at Deepdean, and the school is preparing for a most exciting event: the fiftieth Anniversary.

Plans for a weekend of celebrations are in full swing. But all is not well, for in the detectives’ long absence, Daisy has lost her crown to a fascinating, charismatic new girl – while Beanie is struggling with a terrible revelation.

As parents descend upon Deepdean for the Anniversary, decades-old grudges, rivalries and secrets begin to surface. Then the girls witness a shocking incident in the woods close by – and soon, a violent death occurs.

Can the girls solve the case – and save their home?

The brilliant new mystery from the bestselling, award-winning author of Murder Most Unladylike.

~*~

Top Marks for Murder was my first adventure with Daisy, Hazel and their Deepdean friends, and I really enjoyed it. Set in the 1930s, just a few years before the outbreak of World War Two. Nestled in a private school, Daisy and Hazel have returned to school for a two-month absence, just in time for the school’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations. They meet new girl, Amina El Maghrabi from Cairo, who has taken Daisy’s crown – a history that seeps through from previous books. As the girls prepare for the anniversary, animosity builds between some of the fourth formers. But the Friday of the weekend anniversary, Beanie sees what appears to be a murder – and from there, Daisy and Hazel find themselves looking into a possible murder, and looking at the parents as suspects as they uncover secrets from many years ago that could be bubbling to the surface as murder comes to Deepdean and threatens to close the school forever.

This is one series I would love to go back and read the rest of the series to get to know the characters more and see what other crimes Daisy and Hazel have investigated. Exploring the class system in England, coupled with characters like Hazel – the narrator of the series, and Amina – from Hong Kong and Egypt, countries with a colonial influence, the novels bring diversity into the books on many levels, and show a world beyond what previous series may have explored from other authors.  The schoolgirl rivalries are eventually set aside as the murder of a teacher rocks the school, and Daisy, Hazel and their friends recreate crime scenes and ask a London police officer to help them investigate. But who is the killer and how will they uncover the crime and save the school?

Even though this is a series, I feel one can pick it up at any point, and go back and forth as you find the books, but I am hoping to eventually read them in order and get a full understanding of the story and characters. It is funny, light but at the same time, has moments of darkness amidst an English boarding school setting that is familiar from many series from Enid Blyton books and Harry Potter but also has a few differences that make it a unique series for readers aged about ten and older to enjoy, and feel as though they are investigating the crime with Hazel and Daisy.

It is also a sort of school-girl homage to Sherlock and Watson, which I thoroughly enjoyed about it and thought it was an intriguing way to look at the world of consulting or amateur detectives in a very different setting and with a very different set of characters. Looking forward to reading more books in this series.