After an eventful summer (detailed in the previous two books, Poison is Not Polite and First Class Murder), Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong return to school, only to find the services of their Detective Society is once again needed - this time to solve the murder of a fellow student!
Robin Stevens' fourth novel in the Wells & Wong Mystery series takes the two aspiring detectives back to Deepdean school for girls to find that much has changed. And, as is the case in the lives of real friends, it is not only the relationships at school that have changed. Jolly Foul Play finds the friendship between Daisy and Hazel strained. Daisy remains the same determined, often unemotional, quick-thinking, and unafraid of facing danger girl that she has always been; Hazel, however, has begun to change and grow, emotionally as well as physically. Plus, her newfound friendship with Alexander (the Junior Pinkerton that Hazel and Dasiy met on board the Orient Express in the last mystery) has continued via correspondence, and Daisy seems none-too-keen on the idea that Hazel is sharing her attention with someone else.
Stevens writes another great murder mystery, in which just about anyone could be a suspect. Daisy and Hazel, when they aren't mad at one another, ultimately agree that the murder has to be one of the five prefects - the five Big Girls who oversee the girls in the lower grades (and, under Elizabeth's direction, have been none-too-kind about it). Like everyone at Deepdean, each of the five Big Girls has a secret that they don't want revealed. With Elizabeth dead, it would seem those secrets would be safe. At least, until pages from Elizabeth's "Scandal Book" start showing up around school, making known secrets of the girls in the lower grades - secrets so devastating that one girl runs away! Daisy theorizes that if they can discover the Big Girls' secrets, they can uncover the identity of the killer.
Unlike many children's mystery series, Daisy and Hazel and all of their friends (and enemies) age, mature, grow, and change, and it's refreshing to see how this aging and these changes affect their relationships. These things definitely affect the way the girls react to things, as well as the way they interact with one another during the course of the investigation. And while Stevens certainly integrates the girls' personal lives into the story, she never lets the reader forget for one second that the main focus is the murder mystery. (It is also nice to see elements of previous stories intertwined into the current mystery, and how things that have gone before still have an affect on things now.)
With four solved murders under their proverbial belt, there's no doubt that the girls' trip to Cambridge, where they plan to meet up with Alexander and his fellow Junior Pinkerton, George, will lead to another murder to solve! Can't wait to read that one!
10 burnt and chopped up hockey sticks out of 10 for proving the young adult mystery genre is still alive and kicking and doing quite well!