First Class Murder
Robin Stevens’ schoolgirl detectives of Murder Is Bad Manners return in their third adventure in First Class Murder. Fans of classic mysteries will love the setting: the two young women are taking the Orient Express!
After the dismaying events of Hazel’s visit to Daisy’s home (Poison Is Not Polite), Hazel’s father thinks the girls need a holiday. It’s one thing to investigate murders, but quite another when all the suspects are family or friends.
To get their minds off that history, he’s arranged a trip on the famous luxury train. There, they encounter a boorish businessman, his whiny wife, her disinherited brother, her medium, a stage magician, a glamorous female spy, and a Russian countess no longer royalty, although she still acts the part. When the train is stopped, the girls want to solve the murder (and jewel robbery) before a buffoon of a detective can finger the wrong suspect and let the real villain go free.
First Class Murder can be read without knowing the previous books, although if you do so, you then have the fun of two more cases to discover. Since the girls are fourteen, there will be points where adult readers, knowing human nature, will guess some of the interactions before the young women figure them out, but that’s a welcome reminder of their innocence and youthful optimism.
This volume is an important marker in Hazel growing up. She’s already more mature in some ways than the privileged Daisy. The English girl doesn’t always recognize how easy her blonde good looks and titled father make things for her, but the Asian Hazel knows how unpleasant unthinking people can be.
Here, she also has to begin drawing boundaries between her father and herself. I liked the way this was handled, with each having good reasons for their choices and a clear, if properly kept discreet, love between them. Hazel’s uncertainty about her place in society is more subtly portrayed here than in the previous books, but her empathy makes for a powerful moment late in the story.