My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was a little in awe of Stevens’ debut in this series, the rather glorious and as good as Christmas Murder Most Unladylike, and so when Arsenic For Tea came onto NetGalley, I did a tiny shriek of joy. And by tiny, I mean rather substantial.
Arsenic For Tea is a joy. A multi-layered sandwich cake of joy. There’s really very little else to be said other than this book is gorgeous and it’s something rather special.
It is the second in the Wells and Wong series; Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, schoolgirl detectives, are at Daisy’s house for the holiday and as it’s Daisy’s birthday, the whole family and a couple of extras are invited along for a birthday tea of splendid proportions. However – it’s a birthday party that somebody won’t see the end of.
A closed house mystery; a party of people, all with their reasons for doing the deed, stuck in the house together due to bad weather. Somebody has something to confess – and it’s down to the Detective Society to solve their second case before something very bad happens.
Glorious, really, a book where the stakes are high and the mystery wraps around them a little tighter with each step taken. Daisy and Hazel remain a delight (Hazel’s little revealing one-liners are a joy), and the supporting cast remains ineffably perfect (Lord Hastings – Daisy’s father, Felix and Miss Alston all provide particular highs).
Sometimes, with a second book in a series, there’s always that risk of ‘second book syndrome’. Will it be as good? Will you still like it as much as you did the first time round? Will the characters have grown or will it be a pale rehash of the first?
Arsenic For Tea feels stronger, somehow, and deeper too. It’s glorious and worth cancelling everything for. Stevens feels like she’s settled more into her groove and that groove is producing stylish, charming, witty and delightful stories. I am a fan of this series and a fan of her work and I think this is again a title that feels a little bit like Christmas.