Murder Is Bad Manners
Murder Is Bad Manners is a wonderful read for anyone who likes English boarding school stories or classic mysteries. Although put out by a young adult imprint, and thus marketed for kids, I also enjoyed reading it.
Robin Stevens has captured the antique flavor of a residence for proper young ladies during the 1930s, but with a modern attitude. Our narrator is Hazel Wong, who’s come to the school from Hong Kong, and the Brit girls aren’t above the occasional bit of racism. Hazel plugs through, accompanied by her best friend Daisy, a privileged alpha girl. How the two really feel about each other is one of the more subtle themes underlying the mystery.
The two have already formed a Detective Society when Hazel sees one of the teachers (all women, except for the disruptive Mr. Reid, music and art instructor) dead in the gym. When she returns with help, the body is gone. Daisy and Hazel are the only ones — aside from the murderer — who even know the instructor is dead. As they work to sort out motives and figure out what happened to the body, they may not realize how much danger they’re in. Possible causes for wrongdoing include a love triangle, a broken heart, a struggle to become the next deputy headmistress of the school, and various secrets in the teachers’ pasts.
Stevens does an excellent job with atmosphere, capturing the details of school life, even if some of the girls do kind of blur together unless the reader pays close attention. I quite enjoyed spending time with the young women, particularly since the short chapters are as addictive as popcorn. I stayed up late reading “just one more”. It’s a twisty mystery that isn’t easy to figure out but rings true in motivations.
Best of all, this is first in a series of three. The others are out in the UK; here’s hoping they come to the US soon. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)