Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens
Poison is Not Polite (US)
Publisher: Corgi Children’s (UK) / Simon & Schuster (US)
Published: January 2015 (UK) / April 26, 2016 (US)
Genre: middle grade, mystery, historical
ISBN: 9780552570732 (UK) / 9781481422154 (US)
Schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are at Daisy’s home, Fallingford, for the holidays. Daisy’s glamorous mother is throwing a tea party for Daisy’s birthday, and the whole family is invited, from eccentric Aunt Saskia to dashing Uncle Felix. But it soon becomes clear that this party isn’t really about Daisy at all. Naturally, Daisy is furious.
Then one of their party falls seriously, mysteriously ill—and everything points to poison.
With wild storms preventing anyone from leaving, or the police from arriving, Fallingford suddenly feels like a very dangerous place to be. Not a single person present is what they seem—and everyone has a secret or two. And when someone very close to Daisy looks suspicious, the Detective Society must do everything they can to reveal the truth… no matter the consequences.
Hazel Wong is invited to Fallingford to spend the Easter holidays with Daisy Wells and her family. Daisy’s mother plans a birthday tea party for Daisy, but the girls know Lady Hastings is really throwing this tea for her “special guest” — one who seems to have upset the governess, Daisy’s brother’s friend, Lord Hastings, and Daisy’s favorite Uncle Felix. When the special guest quickly falls ill and dies, it’s up to Daisy and Hazel to solve the mystery before the police arrive in the middle of a wild storm, even if it means confronting nasty truths about the Wells family.
I fell in love with the Wells & Wong Detective Agency / Murder Most Unladylike series last summer, and was thrilled to find the as-of-December-2015 completed series in Waterstones. Middle grade detective fiction is probably my favorite kind of mystery to read. They’re quick, fun, witty, and never bogged down with details. Toss in the very Conan Doyle/Christie feel to it, and you have an immediate reader in me!
In the last book, I mentioned how well-rounded Hazel was as a character. It was easy to like her and understand her — her patience, thoughtfulness, insight. She’s governed by her emotions a bit more than Daisy is (you really can call her the Watson of the two, as Daisy herself calls Hazel Watson), but it’s her gut feelings that guide them down the right path. In this book, we see more of Daisy and understand her and all her quirks. From her silly father to her charming, intelligent uncle, her need to impress mixed with her desire to explore warring with one another when her mother enters and leaves a room, the reader (and Hazel) is able to see how Daisy became Daisy based on the people in her life.
Not only this, but the murder happened in her house on her birthday. Which means one of the guests, likely a family member, committed the crime. Daisy is so wrapped up in the details of the case that when it finally hits her it could be a relative of hers, one she loves dearly, she cracks. Witnessing this “weakness” in her character brought me closer to these two girls. They may be little detectives solving cases like one would in a novel, but it’s all fun and games until it really hits home how dark, dangerous, and scary this can be.
It’s hard to review a mystery book without accidentally spoiling the details of the plot! So I’ll leave you with this: Arsenic for Tea is a delightful, incredibly English detective mystery for the little Holmes or Marple in your life.