Arsenic For Tea is a fun, gripping and thoroughly engrossing mystery novel from Robin Stevens.
Part of new middle grade series, Arsenic for Tea is the second case that Daisy and Hazel find themselves in the midst of. Good job they belong to the Detective Society.
'It was all happening again: a hidden murder, and a murderer who knew that we were investigating'
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are friends. Good friends. They attend boarding school together, but are planning to spend the holidays at Daisy's grand house, Fallingford, in order to celebrate Daisy's birthday. As the title might suggest, things don't go according to plan and the girls find themselves in a race against time to solve a murder case in the old, isolated house.
Stevens captures the mystery genre just perfectly with a myriad of characters and clues carefully placed to keep readers guessing.
For me the real winner is the relationship between these two girls. The contrasting quirks of each character are captured so acutely within their many exchanges. With the story written from Hazel's point of view (this is her casebook), we are treated to some amusing observations ...
'I had never seen Daisy cry before. I didn't think she had tears in her, the way ordinary people do.'
The incredibly driven Daisy is 'ridiculous and brilliant and mad' and refers to Hazel as her Watson. Hazel comes from Hong Kong 'where everything was safe and understandable' her observations become even more acute as she gets used to new, English customs 'I didn't know how to behave among all these strange English people' ... and Daisy's family are certainly eccentric!
Robins Stevens' narrative captures nuances of language reflecting Daisy and Hazels' 1930's era. A splattering of words such as 'Spiffing', 'Buck up' and 'Golly' are of just the right quantity to cause amusement rather than confusion, (although Hazel has thoughtfully provided a glossary at the end of the book!)
Arsenic For Tea is a wonderful detective middle grade novel featuring two highly interesting characters at its heart together with a first class narrative. Murder Most Unladylike (2014), is the first in the series. The third book is First Class Murder.