Death Sets Sail by Robin Stevens

The Blurb On The Back:

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are in Egypt, taking a cruise along the Nile.  They are hoping to see some ancient temples and a mummy or two; what they get, instead, is MURDER.

Also taking the cruise is a group of genteel English ladies and gentlemen, who believe themselves to be reincarnations of the ANCIENT PHAROAHS.  When their leader is found stabbed to death, and her SLEEPWALKING DAUGHTER awakens covered in blood, Daisy and Hazel begin their most difficult case yet.

But there is DANGER ALL AROUND, and this time only one of the Detective Society will make it home alive … 

You can order Death Sets Sail by Robin Stevens from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s 23 December 1936, 5 months after TOP MARKS FOR MURDER.

15-year-old Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have been invited to Egypt and a Nile cruise by Amina El Maghrabi and both are looking forward to seeing the ancient ruins and mummies.  Hazel’s joined by her father and younger sisters Rose and May and also attending – entirely coincidentally – are Alexander Arcady and George Mukherjee of the Junior Pinkertons, there with a tutor to learn more about ancient Egypt.  

The cruise is also hosting the Breath of Light Society, a group led by the Theodora Miller who believe themselves to be the reincarnation of Egyptian rulers.  Theodora bullies her followers – Ida Doggett, Rhiannon Bartleby, Narcissus DeWitt and particularly her daughter Heppy, a nervous girl who sleepwalks – and the only person who stands up to her is her son Daniel, a former member of the Society who’s convinced that it’s responsible for the darkest of deeds …

When Theodora is found stabbed in her cabin with a bloodstained Heppy standing over her corpse, it seems an open and shut case of murder (albeit one committed under automatism).  But the Detective Society and the Junior Pinkertons are not convinced and with several hours to go until the ship reaches the next big town and can hand the murder over to the police, Daisy and Hazel must find the clues to discover who really did it – even though this time, one of the team will not make it out of their adventure alive …

The 9th and final book in Robin Stevens’s MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE SERIES for children aged 9+ is a suitable send-off to the Wong and Wells detective duo. We know from the start that one girl won’t survive but their friendship remains front and centre even as they both get some romance and Hazel resolves her relationship with her father and sisters.  I’ll miss this series but am looking forward to new adventures with Hazel’s sister May.

There are more than a couple of allusions to Agatha Christie’s DEATH ON THE NILE in this book and Stevens has produced both a fitting tribute to the Queen of Crime while giving her detective duo of Wells and Wong a thoroughly deserved send-off.  There’s plenty of sadness from the start as we learn in the first chapter that one of the duo will die during the adventure, but the book does full justice to the girls and their friendship, which gives what happens an added poignancy.  

The romance that’s been bubbling away between Hazel and Alexander is sweetly developed and will satisfy fans and while Amina was only introduced in the last book (something that made me a little sad as she brings an added perspective to the book that Hazel can relate to while also creating some tension within her as she knows how Daisy feels about Amina), I enjoyed Stevens’s depiction of Daisy’s reactions around her and how that develops.  My favourite part of the book though was actually the development of Hazel’s relationship with her father and half-sisters Rose and, particularly May (who will be getting her own series), which shows how much Hazel has grown but also how much her stern father loves her.

The mystery itself is suitably filled with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.  Theodora is a suitably unsympathetic victim and I enjoyed how Stevens draws out the motives and competition between the other Society members with Amina providing commentary on how they twist Egyptian history and mythology for their own ends.  While the Detective Society is ably supported by the Junior Pinkertons (and Stevens shows the tensions and oneupmanship between the two) the girls remain the undoubted stars and it’s Daisy who, as always, calls the shots.

All in all, I think this is a fitting conclusion to the Wells and Wong series and although I will miss the girls (and desperately hope that there will be a spin-off series featuring Wong at Bletchley Park), I enjoyed the introduction of the mischievous, headstrong and resourceful May and will definitely read the new series that Stevens is planning for her.  

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