This is the fifth book in the Murder Most Unladylike Mystery series, starring the Wells and Wong Detective Agency . I’ve had the book for a while but saved it up for December reading. The girls are spending Christmas in Cambridge with Daisy’s great aunt, a formidable don at St Lucy’s College. Daisy’s brother Bertie is a student at Maudlin. The name is explained in the introduction and incidentally teaches young readers how to pronounce Magdalen College, Oxford.
Daisy and Hazel jump in as usual when there’s a murder at Maudlin. They are supposedly being chaperoned by a St Lucy’s student, Amanda, but she leaves them alone (her doings are suspicious), so they do pretty well what they like i.e. not what young ladies should be doing. It’s all rather grim just on Christmas but the young detectives and their detecting rivals Arcady and George can’t rest until the mystery is solved. Things get quite hair raising.
I like the way the girls’ characters develop in these books, especially Hazel’s. She may not be as pretty or as daring as Daisy, but she’s maturing faster. The book touches on some important issues. Hazel notices the austerity and poverty of St Lucy’s compared with Maudlin (just like in A Room of One’s Own) and, although she would love to study in beautiful Cambridge, she’s annoyed that she wouldn’t be able to take a degree and can see that clever women like Amanda are treated much worse than less clever men. There’s also the race issue. Hazel is Hong Kong Chinese and would like to be as English as possible. Meeting George for the first time, she finds that he and his brother are Indian, although born in London. There’s also a Chinese student at Maudlin. Hazel realises that however much they all try to fit in, they will always be seen as different, which is distressing for her.
I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the ones which are set in school at Deepdean, but it’s still a good read. The events are very unlikely, but it is a book for young readers, after all.