Review: Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens
‘We were all looking up, and so we missed the murder.’
Bonfire Night at Deepdean goes off with a bang when Head Girl Elizabeth is found dead at the end of the fireworks display. Lying next to her is a bloody rake, so it’s agreed that her death must have been an accident – the caretaker, Jones, must have carelessly left the rake on the floor. The new headmistress, Miss Barnard, dismisses him, but the Detective Society know things are never that simple.
Elizabeth’s death wasn’t an accident, it was murder. One of the five prefects must have killed her. But who, and why? It’s down to Daisy and Hazel – along with their assistants, Kitty, Beanie and Lavinia – to figure that out.
With such a small pool of suspects it looked like the Detective Society had an easy case on their hands, but this is the toughest mystery yet. Someone their age – someone who has power over the girls – is responsible, and Hazel is painfully aware of the fact that this is the most dangerous investigation they’ve attempted.
Of course, Daisy still seems completely unfazed. In fact, when deeply hidden secrets start being revealed and Daisy learns that Elizabeth curated something called The Scandal Book, she positively thrives. There’s nothing Daisy Wells loves more than a bit of gossip… Apart from detecting, of course! But because Elizabeth is dead, this gives Wells and Wong another mystery to solve. Who is responsible for leaking the secrets?
It doesn’t make sense for it to be Elizabeth’s murderer. If she was killed to cover up a secret, why would the murderer then start leaking them? Another girl must be responsible, and if Elizabeth’s murderer discovers her identity that girl is going to be in mortal danger.
Because we’re already familiar with most of the characters from Murder Most Unladylike, the stakes are higher than ever. Robin Stevens was clever to wait a few books before returning to Deepdean, because Hazel and Daisy have both gone through a lot of character development since investigating the murder of Miss Bell. It’s not surprising that they’re happy to team up with Kitty and Beanie again, following their help in Arsenic For Tea, but adding Lavinia makes it five prefects vs. five investigators – an interesting dynamic which quickly proves which girls are better at detecting than others!
Once again I couldn’t figure out who the culprit was, and I still can’t find one single thing to critique about this series. Robin Stevens can write compelling murder mysteries in any location, at any time of year, and she refuses to rely on tropes and stereotypes. She also slips in some subtle historical context, having the girls discuss Hitler’s rise to power and his policies regarding Jewish citizens in a way that is sure to spark young reader’s interest in the events of World War II.
It would be impossible for me to recommend this series more. I’m excited to read Mistletoe and Murder, but I’m also saddened: there aren’t many more books in the series left for me to devour, and it’s going to take hundreds of Wells and Wong investigations to satisfy my appetite.
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If someone was blackmailing you with a secret, what would you do? I’m hoping the answer to that question isn’t murder!