Once upon a crime by Robin Stevens

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For those who can't get enough of the A Murder Most Unladylike Collection here are six more mysteries in the one book entitled Once upon a crime. There is a waiting list for this  book at our school already and all of the previous books are out on loan.  In Once upon a crime, Robin Stevens serves up more "delicious mysteries and deadly murders" involving the same characters: Daisy Wells, Hazel Wong, The Junior Pinkertons and Hazel's little sister May. Daisy and Hazel are now just that little bit older, fourth formers at Deepdean School, with older girls' concerns emerging including love interests. May is following in their footsteps with the ambition to be the greatest spy ever.

The murder cases in Once upon a crime occur between January 1936 and September 1939. Locations of the murder cases are quintessentially English and include St Pancras Registry office during Uncle Felix and Miss Livedon's marriage, the mummy room in the British museum, Saltings Beach, the hills country outside Weston Boys' School, onboard the SS Strathclyde and a flat in London. The second world war is a backdrop to the stories. It seems distinctly likely that Hazel's uncle and aunt are involved in the spy game during the war and their attitude to life is a fertile and encouraging influence on the young detectives.  In The case of the Missing Treasure, Uncle Felix actively delivers progressive clues in the form of riddles for the children to decode.The children involved in each specific detective case narrate their story in first person. As in the previous books in the A Murder Most Unladylike Collection, methodical case notes are kept where murder suspects lists include active observations, witness reports, times and motives. Most cases are solved through a process of elimination and often there is a dramatic confrontation between the murderer and the young detectives. 

These books are very funny. They are, as The Daily Mail states - "simply spiffing" and as The Telegraph states - "A feelgood blend of Malory Towers and Cluedo." Robin Stevens is the Agatha Christie for younger readers of today. Part of the fascination for today's readers is the era depicted and the life and adventures of English boarding school girls and boys growing up during wartime in England. At the back of Once upon a crime is a timeline that depicts the cases solved by the detective society from 1934 through to 1939 and there is a letter from the author... " At the moment I'm writing a brand-new series called The Ministry of Unladylike Activity... 

Look out, Robin Stevens is writing more of these very English, very thrilling stories, full of fiendish villains, codes to crack and crimes to be solved. Once upon a Crime is recommended to readers who enjoy light hearted whodunits.

Themes: Murder, Detective work, Friendship, Boarding school.

Wendy Jeffrey