Thursday, October 04, 2018

Mystery on Vacation!

Stevens, Robins. Mistletoe and Murder
(Wells and Wong #5)
September 18th 2018 by Simon Schuster
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Daisy and her brother Bertie don't want to go home fro Christmas, and it's too far for Hazel to return to China, so the girls decide to spend their holidays under the care of Daisy's Aunt Eustacia, who teaches at a womens' college in Cambridge. Amanda, a student there, is supposed to chaperone the girls, who are staying in "King Henry's" ( a former prefect at their school) room, but she is very busy with her school work, so let's them wander on their own. This is fine with the girls, who sense a possible mystery in the offing. Twins Donald and Chummy Melling are due to come into their inheritance on Christmas day, but Donald, the older, will get everything, and Chummy will get nothing. Chummy is the twin whom everyone thinks should inherit, and Donald has been involved in a series of unfortunate accidents. The other appeal of visiting Cambridge was that Alexander and his friend George, who helped with a previous inquiry by letter, are going to be there as well. As males, of course, they have less restricted access to Maudlin College and its lodgings. When one of the twins has a fatal accident, this is very helpful. The girls try to investigate, but are constantly thwarted, and must rely on the help of the detectives who are supposedly their arch rivals. When there is yet another murder, it is even more important for Daisy and Hazel to figure out what has gone on.
Strengths: The book Daisy brings with her to read? Gaudy Night! My readers love murder mysteries, and there are definitely murders in these. There's also lots of very pleasant British life, the opportunity to run around without supervision, climbing up buildings, and even a little about the inequities faced by both women and ethnic minorities in the UK during this time period. (1930s)
Weaknesses: Hazel comments a bit on the difficulties of being Chinese is a place where Chinese people are something rare, especially when she meets George, who is Indian. There's just a hint of it, though, and it's such an interesting part of the story that I wish we knew more.
What I really think: I love British mysteries, and it occurred to me that Harry Potter fans might be enticed to read these books by the mention of tea and cakes, and the cozy rooms in the colleges. Definitely purchasing and gently twisting some arms to get students to read these!

Gibbs, Stuart. Spy School Goes South (Spy School #6)
October 1st 2018 by Simon & Schuster
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Murray is ready to talk, but only to Ben. He's turned over a new leaf, gotten some exercise, lost some weight, and is ready to turn over SPYDER's secret whereabouts. Cyrus decides that Erica and Ben should go, because they will work better in a stealth situation, so they are soon on a plane headed south. Zoe and Mike decides to stow away, and of course things start to go wrong. Murray is double crossing them, (it's not a spoiler if you expect it to happen, right?), and soon they are crash landing in the jungle in Mexico. NOT the Mexico of picture postcards, but the Mexico with crocodiles and clouds of mosquitoes. They eventually make their way to the resort where the SPYDER headquarters has been moved, and infiltrate it by pretending to be associated with the Farkle Family Fiesta taking place. This provides a room (via a stolen credit card) and camouflage (family t shirt). They manage to infiltrate it, only to have Ben decide that he couldn't let a former nemesis be killed, so he saves Paul Lee. Saddled with their newest evil criminal as well as Murray, Ben and Erica have to salvage the mission. They have to deal with Ashley and Warren as well, but thankfully Erica's mother shows up. After much adventure and mayhem, we're still not much closer to taking down SPYDER, although Ben has made some progress on his romantic life, which means we have more adventures to look forward to in book seven!
Strengths: You know how, as an adult, you read things like Lillian Jackson Braun's 29 book Cat Who mysteries? And you don't think about character development or plot or literary merit? You just read them because they are fun to read? Gibbs' writing is just so much fun that I definitely fall into this trap, especially on a Sunday afternoon. These books are all hysterically funny, with deft turns of phrase, improbably schemes, and great characters. I am especially fond of Erica because she is so skilled and competent. Can she fly the airplane they are in that is crashing to the ground? Well, she's flown OTHER planes, so why not? Ben is actually very complex-- he has a brilliant mind for fighting criminals, but his survival and defense skills are weak, which intrigues me. Great stuff.
Weaknesses: My biggest Gibbs fan has gone on to the high school. Excuse me while I go weep.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, although seven books is about as long as a middle school series needs to be.
Ms. Yingling

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