My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sometimes I think back to that first moment I read Robin Stevens. Murder Most Unladylike ticked all of my literary boxes in a way I wasn’t sure was ever really going to happen. Of course there are books out there that I love, books out there that fire my brain into strange and wonderful places, books that make me gasp and weep at their perfection, but then there’s the Wells and Wong books and the way they fit into something very perfect for me and my bookish ways. I am a school story fan; I read a lot of authors who aren’t the ones you’d find in shops today. Angela Brazil. Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. I love the roots, I suppose, of British children’s literature. Of those books that live in schools or windswept moors or in the attics of deepest London with nothing but dreams to keep you alive in the darkness.
I think perhaps, what I love with the Wells and Wong series is how it fits. How it talks back to those books and how it talks forward to the books yet to come. These are complex, tightly plotted books and they are, I imagine, not easy to write. But they are so easy, so delightful, so addictively gorgeous to read. And though this book is perfect to read as a standalone, I would reccomend that you take time to read them from the start because the series is evolving. Stevens, I think, is getting stronger and more rooted within her characters and for somebody who was good at the start of this series, I suspect you can realise what I think of Jolly Foul Play itself. Reader, I loved it. It’s a gift this series, one formed of perfect slang-tipped edges and girls being girls and revelling in their strengths as girls. As friends. As detectives.
The great joy in this book comes from that added little edge of Hazel’s increasing maturity. It’s subtly done, cleverly, but through their investigation of the murder of Deepdean’s despotic headgirl, Hazel and Daisy’s friendship is challenged and questioned. Is this it for the Detective Society? Are Hazel and Daisy through? Can their friendship survive this case with its strange edges and familiarities?
I love what Stevens does. I love this classy and classic series; I love the strength of it, and the competencies of it, and that the girlhood within it is presented as messy and honest and terrifying and fun, gorgeous, powerful, fun. Jolly Foul Play is perfect, really, there’s very little else to say.