Review: A Spoonful of Murder by Robin Stevens
‘This time I am stuck in the very middle of the case. I am not just a detective, I’m a witness. And I think that I might even be a suspect.’
After the death of Hazel’s Ah Yeh, she and Daisy travel to Hong Kong to pay their respects and join the Wongs in their period of mourning. When they arrive, Hazel discovers that that’s not the only thing she has to do while she’s in Hong Kong: she also has to meet her baby brother, Teddy, who her father has kept secret from her since his birth in November.
Boys are a big deal in Hong Kong. Teddy is now the most important member of the family, and Hazel’s childhood maid Su Li has been reassigned to care for him, leaving Hazel in the care of Ping. Hazel feels betrayed – she loved Su Li, but Su Li is now acting as though she doesn’t exist – but when Su Li gets murdered and Teddy gets kidnapped, Hazel must put her personal feelings aside.
The Detective Society are on the case, and they’re going to get Teddy back.
A Spoonful of Murder feels like Arsenic For Tea‘s twin. Back in book two we visited Daisy’s childhood home of Fallingford, where a murder was committed and Daisy had no choice but to suspect her entire family of the crime. This time, it’s Hazel’s turn. A member of her family has been taken, and the woman who was practically her mother is dead. Her real mother is under suspicion, along with Ping and their chauffeur, Wo On. It was fascinating to watch Hazel react to the situation, and allowed us to get a deeper understanding of her character.
Both Hazel and Daisy go through a ton of character development in Hong Kong, with Hazel taking the lead on the case and Daisy left in the dark every time anyone spoke in Cantonese. Seeing Daisy bamboozled for once was a lot of fun – even the Honourable Daisy Wells has gaps in her knowledge! Robin Stevens is allowing her characters to grow as the series progresses, and based on the way that the crimes are getting more complicated she understands that her readers are growing, too. I’m glad that I’ve finally caught up with the series so I can read future installments as they’re released, because I can imagine that this growth feels much more natural with a few months between each novel.
I chose ‘busy’ as my one word summary because this book is nonstop. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump recently, but as soon as I started A Spoonful of Murder it propelled me along, giving me no choice but to keep reading (even if it was only a chapter or two at a time to start with). I then read a third of the book in one sitting, which is something I haven’t done in months! I should have trusted Stevens to break me out of my slump, and I wish I’d picked this up weeks ago.
Busy is also a great way to describe Hong Kong. The setting is vibrant, infused with life and made into its own character, and although I’ve never wanted to visit before it’s now top of my travel bucket list. It’s even better that Stevens made the effort to render a realistic 1930s version of Hong Kong, explaining in her author’s note at the end of the book that Hong Kong is a constantly changing place so she couldn’t just visit the setting, she needed to interview people about it as well. Attention to detail while researching makes reading the finished product far more enjoyable, as you can tell how much the author loves the story that they’ve written. That bumped my rating from four to five stars.
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