Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens

Challenge 4 ~ “A book published this year.”


★ ★ ★ ★ ★

There’s something truly satisfying when you read the second in a series and realise the first was not a fluke. It’s like an automatic justification of your adoration for a new-found author or series, and all of a sudden the series itself just becomes top of your priorities – the laundry can survive another two days, and that paper’s not really due until Friday, right? Wells and Wong was definitely one of those series, and I had to reign back on reading First Class Murder because a) it didn’t fit my challenge and b) my dad was too busy reading it. Parents, eh? Who’d have them?

Following from Murder Most Unladylike, Arsenic for Tea most certainly did not disappoint. The reader is thrown into Daisy’s world as confidently as the last novel concluded, and the balance of setting and action soon makes the reader feel at home there. Stevens is quick to not let this comfort stagnate, however, and ensures a stream of twists and turns keeps everything flowing and the reader fully alert. All the while the plot builds and the suspense oozes from the page.

Before too long the answer is just around the page, and Stevens has ensured the reader feels pretty confident in their suspicion (even if it is not quite the character they feel the book is hinting it is!) At this point I found, despite it being stellar, that I was a little disappointed – it sure felt a lot more predictable than the first. Stevens, however, has no shortage of tricks up her sleeve, and the confident “it’s either x or y” is shattered as the conclusion arrives in all its glory – it turned out to be z. Damn!

Series can be troublesome works – they can be amazing, but they can also not stand alone as a novel. Or if they can, it just means there’s no continuation of character development or plotlines. Stevens oversteps these issues as if they were minute cracks in the pavement, ensuring a stellar quality novel that both offers development and can stand-alone in a blizzard. She truly masters the genre (historical mystery in young adult fiction) to create a wholly amazing read for young and old (and I am ever the fan that Stevens is from the same part of England as I am!) Even as one who has felt the sting of poorly written historical and mystery novels in the past, I would tell you just to grab the series and give it a twirl – you’ll fall into the full tango before too long!

Recommended for fans of:

  • Shelter by Harlan Coban
  • The Malory Towers Series by Enid Blyton
  • The Same Stuff As Stars by Katherine Paterson

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