Jan Lee takes a peek at a murder mystery set in an all-girls school and likes what she sees

In Deepdean School for Girls The Case of Lavinia’s Missing Tie, a novel for youngsters aged nine and over, was solved by Daisy Wells, president of the Detective Society and Hazel Wong, secretary.

In the second of the series Murder Most Unladylike, Hazel finds the body of the science mistress, Miss Bell, lying in the gym.

But when Hazel returns, with Daisy, to the scene of the crime the body has disappeared.

Before the police arrive clues must be uncovered, evidence gathered, suspects scrutinised, motives and alibis examined. Daisy blond, blue eyed, from a titled family ‘who’ll gallop muddy fields in the rain clutching hockey sticks’ is keen on crime novels while Hazel is half-Chinese (sent by her father from Hong Kong to be educated in England) – the newcomer, the outsider, through whose eyes we see the goings on of this closely knit society with all its quirks.

Will their friendship survive?

The author, Stevens, grew up in Oxford, her father Master of Pembroke, her mother Kathy Booth Stevens, the education officer in the Ashmolean.

Steeped in stories, from an early age, she loved Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, stars of the “golden age of detective fiction”.

Hers is not so much a parody as a light engaging tongue in cheek evocation of this world of elite boarding schools with dorms, midnight feasts, freezing games and passionate attachments first pioneered by Angela Brazil, and later Enid Blyton.

Their novels, known as ‘cosies’, are defended by Martin Edwards in his recent wide ranging study The Golden Age of Murder. Stevens could well have been included in this illustrious group in his far-ranging study with her sense of place (we have a map of Deepdean school), attention to detail, in-depth characters, authentic documents of events and, most importantly, absorbing plot.

Murder Most Unladylike, by Robin Stevens, Corgi £6.99