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I've avoided reading series recently because I really don't like having to wait for a next release in order to find out how a story continues. Especially after reading George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows several years ago, I thought I was done with reading series forever (that weird apologetic note at the end? What even was that?).
However I've started a couple middle grade series recently that are winning me back to the opinion that series can be good. It's great to read a book and already know the characters and world they're set in and be able to get down to the plot right away.
Two new favorites are Robin Stevens' Murder Most Unladylike series (aka Wells and Wong Mysteries in the US) and Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co. books.

The Murder Most Unladylike series are very fun murder mysteries set in the 1930s. Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are students at Deepdean boarding school for young ladies. After forming a secret detective society they find that the murders almost seem to follow them around.

There are four book published so far in the UK and two in the US with the release date for #5 (UK) set for later this year.

Here's the official blurb for the first book, Murder Most Unladylike (in the US, Murder is Bad Manners):
When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared.

Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive. Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?
I really love the setting both in time and place. Boarding schools hold a fascination for me as something both very foreign and very old-fashioned; although I know they still exist today (in the US as well as the UK!), I can't help imagining even today's boarding school students in 1920s clothes. Not all the books take place at the boarding school, but the other settings lend themselves well to mystery and Stevens provides helpful maps in each book to better imagine where and how the murders take places. As a big fan of Poirot--particularly on-screen (I love you David Suchet!)--the 1930s seems a perfect decade for mysteries.

The books are written from Hazel's perspective as she records the details of each case. The girls seem to have a sort of Sherlock and Watson relationship on the surface, but the reader quickly learns that far from simply recording Daisy's deductions, Hazel is actually the more thoughtful of the two and without the deductions of both girls the mysteries would not be solved. Both Hazel and Daisy are truly memorable characters and while they seem a bit over the top in their individual characteristics at first, they develop well over time and become more fleshed out as the books go on.

If I have one issue with this book it's that "Deepdean" is very difficult to say.

I definitely recommend these to anyone who likes an enjoyable and easy-to-read mystery with a good sense of humor.

As a side note, the buzz on Goodreads seems to indicate that the US versions have been unnecessarily "translated" for the American audience, but I have been reading the UK versions, so can't comment directly. As an American I found the UK versions completely comprehensible except that I had to look up how old the girls were as I'm not familiar with the school year system in the UK.


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