I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.First Class Murder by Robin Stevens
Series: Wells and Wong #3
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on April 4th 2017
Genres: Middle Grades, Mystery
Reading Challenges: 2016 50 Book Challenge, 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
A murdered heiress, a missing necklace, and a train full of shifty, unusual, and suspicious characters leaves Daisy and Hazel with a new mystery to solve in this third novel of the Wells & Wong Mystery series.
Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells are taking a vacation across Europe on world-famous passenger train, the Orient Express—and it’s clear that each of their fellow first-class travelers has something to hide. Even more intriguing: There’s rumor of a spy in their midst.
Then, during dinner, a bloodcurdling scream comes from inside one of the cabins. When the door is broken down, a passenger is found murdered—her stunning ruby necklace gone. But the killer has vanished, as if into thin air.
The Wells & Wong Detective Society is ready to crack the case—but this time, they’ve got competition.
First Class Murder is the third in a series of middle grades detective novels featuring the duo of Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, two girls who met in their British boarding school. All of the novels feature variations on Agatha Christie-style mysteries updated for the modern middle schooler. The universe of the stories acknowledges the existence of Christie’s works, as our young detective protagonists have read her work. I enjoyed this nod to Murder on the Orient Express, even though I haven’t read the first two books in the Wells and Wong series.
I was a bit surprised that a middle grades novel would take on murder so directly, rather than making it a book about stolen items or suspected spies…something less scary. But First Class Murder stays true to Christie’s novel by featuring a murder in a locked room on the Orient Express with a finite number of potential suspects. The murder itself is not covered in any gruesome detail, as the focus is on the following questions:
- How did the murder get out of the locked room?
- What happened to the victim’s expensive necklace?
- How did the murder get the murder weapon, which belonged to another passenger on the train?
- What was the motive for the murder?
- What was the timeline of the murder?
- Who on the train might be a spy?
Though Hazel and Daisy are but young girls, the book does a good job acknowledging that they would not be given control of investigating the crime. In fact, Hazel’s father has forbidden her and Daisy from detecting, as he sees their hobby as dangerous and unfit for young ladies. But the two girls use a combination of deductive reasons, direct observations, sneaking around, and eavesdropping on the official investigation interviews to piece together each of the answers to their questions.
I quite enjoyed this book because I felt it didn’t look down on middle grades readers. Because of this, I think this is a series that could be enjoyed by the target age group AND a wider audience. I’m not usually a middle grades fan, but I found myself pulled in by this particular story. I think it helped that the book recognized the time in which Daisy and Hazel lived. There were references to the racism Hazel experiences as the daughter of a Chinese immigrant and the growing tensions for Jews in Europe, as well as an acknowledgement of the elite opulence found in traveling on the Orient Express at that time.
I adored this book in the same way that I adored the original Murder on the Orient Express and other YA mysteries based on classics like A Study in Charlotte. Mystery plots will forever be my favorites because I like knowing the general direction a story is headed and I enjoy trying to figured out the clues with the sleuths. Though I did figure out the mystery before Daisy and Hazel, I imagine that is a feature of this being a middle grades novel — it needs to be accessible to its target audience, and I’m just a smidge older than that.
FINAL GRADE: B+
First Class Murder is such a cute book for middle grades fans of classic Agatha Christie (or those who aren’t quite ready for Christie’s writing style)! I first read The Murder on the Orient Express in eighth grade and instantly loved it, and I know I would have eaten this book up, too. This is the third in a series, but could be enjoyed without reading the rest. I will be going back to read the others because it was such a delightful story!