When you hear the words murder + mystery + English boarding school, you’re either the type of reader who is immediately intrigued, or you
have no imagination whatsoever are not. And I, my friends, am the type who hops a tiny bit with excitement at those delicious words! What’s even better is when the story is set in the 1930s and features two girls at its center, one of whom is of Asian descent. With the #WeNeedDiverseBooks tag taking over the interwebs recently, it’s nice to be reminded that many authors and publishers have been quietly tending to stories with diverse characters all along.
Today, we’re so pleased to be hosting the exclusive cover reveal for Murder is Bad Manners, a cozy middle grade mystery from debut author Robin Stevens. It’s the first book in the Wells & Wong series, which was just published in the UK under the title Murder Most Unladylike. Our edition won’t be out until April 2015, but we have your first look at the book now!
Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)
But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident—but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place…and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.
Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?
Murder is Bad Manners will be released in North America in April 2015.
About the Author
When she was twelve, her father handed her a copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and she realised that she wanted to be either Hercule Poirot or Agatha Christie when she grew up. When it occurred to her that she was never going to be able to grow her own spectacular walrus moustache, she decided that Agatha Christie was the more achieveable option.
She spent her teenage years at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, reading a lot of murder mysteries and hoping that she’d get the chance to do some detecting herself (she didn’t). She then went to university, where she studied crime fiction, and now she works at a children’s publisher, which is pretty much the best day job she can imagine. Robin now lives in Cambridge with her boyfriend and her pet bearded dragon, Watson.
Feel free to grab and share the cover art if you wish!
Isn’t the artwork fun? I love the warm green and yellow colors and typography, which tweak the slightly spooky images so you know it’s a book filled with humor. And look at those girls! Those girls can clearly handle any situation thrown at them, and with aplomb besides.
If you’re like me, you also grew up daydreaming about girls in boarding school and what it was like to live away from home in the midst of strangers. Wouldn’t you get homesick? Wouldn’t be hard to adjust? But wouldn’t it be fun at the same time? The author went to a boarding school herself, so she’s here to tell us about the experience, as well as how it shaped the setting for her novel.
Please make Robin feel welcome!
An American Girl in an English Boarding School
by Robin Stevens
I’m particularly delighted to be able to introduce my book, and my main characters Daisy and Hazel, to American readers. Although I live in England now, I was born in Santa Cruz, California. We moved to England when I was three, but my stubbornly American mother made sure that my childhood was as all-American as humanly possible on the wrong side of the Atlantic. I ate Kraft macaroni cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (my mother had to get the Kraft by mail-order), dyed eggs at Easter (the British eggs were brown, so none of the colours came out right), went trick-or-treating every year (I got yelled at, a lot, by enraged home-owners), and read Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown and The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler as well as Malory Towers and The Famous Five.
So even though I went to boarding school in England, just like my two heroines, I went as an outsider. I’d read a lot of boarding-school books before I arrived at Cheltenham Ladies’ College aged 13 and I thought I was prepared. Of course, I wasn’t. At boarding school, nothing operates normally. In fact, normal means something totally different. It was so normal to be a princess, for example, or at least vaguely royal, that no one even bothered to boast about it. It was just sort of assumed. This was a bit unsettling. I’d be talking to someone who’d been introduced to me as Bob, or Minty, and then I’d suddenly realise that her full name was Alexandra Trumpington Smythe and her parents owned half of England.
I’ve got a lot of sympathy for my narrator Hazel, a Hong-Kong Chinese girl in England. Just like her, I usually felt as though I was trying to navigate a completely alien culture. I watched my English friends running happily about on freezing cold sports fields and having long, serious conversations about rain, and wondering how on earth they could really be enjoying themselves. I couldn’t ever get over the suspicion that they were just making most of it up, and that’s where Daisy’s smart, secretive character came from.
I can’t express just how weird boarding school life was. There were hundreds of secret rules that did not make sense, and existed for reasons that no one could explain. There was a staircase in my boarding house, for example, that only the older girls were allowed to use. There were no labels on this staircase, and no barriers – you were just supposed to know, and if you didn’t know (I didn’t), you emerged from the staircase to a whole hallway full of people staring at you in horror.
Just like Hazel, I messed up and confused myself constantly – but all the same I loved every bizarre aspect of boarding school life. It would have been difficult not to. Half of the magic of Harry Potter comes from Hogwarts, after all, and I lived the closest thing to Hogwarts there is. I really did wear a tie, and have Latin lessons, and play strange, outdoors sports. I also ate mountains of food, most importantly bunbreak (a meal that happened in the middle of every morning. Lessons just stopped for twenty minutes, and everyone went outside to eat cookies). The only thing missing from my school experience was a really interesting murder – and that’s why I wrote Murder is Bad Manners.
This book won’t be out for another year–ANOTHER YEAR–but thanks to Simon & Schuster, we already have the very earliest ARC to give away to one of our lucky readers. All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you’re excited to read the book! Don’t forget, you may earn extra entries for daily tweeting, pinning, etc.
Open to U.S. and Canadian residents aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. See entry form for complete details. Good luck!
Advance and giveaway copies are provided by the publisher. Our thanks to Robin for stopping by the blog today!
Are you as keen to read this story as I am? I can’t wait to meet Daisy and Hazel!