MMU Marathon 5: Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

Gosh this is so gloriously festive!! So wonderful with a Classic Christmas feel even if undercut with murder, racism and misogyny!

I thoroughly enjoyed this even if again, I guessed it but being as that was from a throwaway comment and an odd behaviour, I see that in a joyful way not a this is too easy way because it isn’t, I’m just suspicious of everything!

I’m definitely going to read this again around Christmas because it’s such a festive adventure.

It’s Christmas and Daisy has invited Hazel to stay with her aunt in Cambridge, but their trip doesn’t just provide them with an adventure in the famous university city, it also opens their eyes to the struggles that women face in 1930s Britain.

But it is the behaviours of young men that turns deadly this Christmas when a twin is found dead in suspicious circumstances in the lead up to his birthday on Christmas Day, and it seems everyone, even Daisy’s brother Bertie has something to hide.

I don’t like to see girls wasting their talent. It isn’t good for women to be ignored and sidelined. Things may go along alright, but in the end there is always explosions

Gender issues are strong in this one with threaded conversations about the effect of being female in a misogynistic masculine space and the struggles that occur from the poor accommodation, refusal to award proper degrees and even being scored less than incompetent men in this case for essays a female character wrote for them.

But there is hope. Aunt Eustacia, Amanda, King Henry and others are all fighting to lead the way for women even if it’s a hard battle that Daisy and Hazel are just waking up to.

Extract from the casebook

Indeed it will be only from 1947 that Women will be awarded full degrees from Cambridge University, thankfully the last institution in the UK to do so.

Gender issues are at play in regards to the murders too as the interpersonal relationships and behaviour of young men is under question in this murder more so than the previous murders.

‘Chummy stared at Alfred, Harold, George and me rather accusingly, as though it was unreasonable of us all to be alive, and so close to each other.’

Then there are the issues of race in a far more embedded and nasty way than even previously as we see race at play in a privileged masculine world from George’s pride rubbing against his hidden anger, Alfred’s indignation at having greater wealth than his entire staircase and yet is still dismissed purely on his Chineseness.

We see Hazel both buoyed and struggling with the experience of other BAME characters such as George, Harold and Alfred and the dichotomy of how ‘foreign’ money is good enough for English institutions but it is apparent that the people themselves are less so, and to Hazel’s panic less likely to be treated equitably under suspicion.

Then there’s the continued breaking down of Hazel’s world facing and reconsidering her minor prejudices in the way that Hazel expected George to be white and Bertie to be straight or indeed Daisy’s chemistry with George to be both romantic and usurp her until proven otherwise, and then the sweetheart that she is becomes ashamed of her assumptions, even if one in particular that she shared with Alfred Cheng is a clue to the whole mystery.

‘What happens to her now matters to me, as though we are two halves of the same person.’

I loved the interplay of the shift between Daisy and Hazel, Hazel is again on the back foot about herself, her role with Daisy, her Englishness and now her femininity and the limitations that the latter cause.

“Hello Hazel Wong.” He said to me “I think I shall like you as much as Alexander does.”

I love George, love love love him. He’s basically Daisy’s intelligence and deducing skills in boy form but with a dash of Hazel’s heart and is far more worldly. He is astonishingly observant, fierce and drily wry not just about English class privilege but in reading people too, yet is gentle to those like Alexander. For like Hazel, he sees Alexander’s kindness even though his blonde haired, blue eyed whiteness mean he can never properly understand the experience George and Hazel share.

George’s ability to be different and proud shocks Hazel who has worked so hard to fit in, to ‘tucking the UnEnglish parts’ of herself from sight. Yet it is such an important realisation for her and such a point for both resonance and/or empathy from readers. In her own way Hazel has, like Daisy, built a wall like has around her true self in order to cope at boarding school, except she is hiding her own ‘otherness and vulnerability’ from feeling foreign and never quite enough compared to English girls especially Daisy.

We see this repeat and evolve across the novel but brings back to the mirror of Daisy not really breaking down her own walls, though Hazel is certainly seeing through some parts of them, and seemingly George too.

‘They were bouncing off each other in a way that I had never seen Daisy so with anyone but me’

It was interesting to see the reversal of situation from Jolly Foul Play and whilst not nasty, nor as profound as the fall out between Daisy and Hazel there but Hazel now has some understanding of feeling replaced as she wobbles about Daisy’s instant bond & chemistry with George.

Really these girls need to communicate more about each other and emotions not just about murder and being detectives!! Besides Daisy can’t make it much clearer by now surely?

She reiterates clearly to Hazel points raised in Jolly Foul Play that Hazel just seems to have not accepted ‘ I keep trying to explain to you… men do not interest me, I’m not like you.’ Whilst she does dislike the concept of marriage she doesn’t seem to dismiss love- even if George suspects she does, her issues are always gendered to rejecting the expectation of fawning over boys.

‘I’m so glad we can be friends… some of the fellows at school are stupid about it but I know it’s not like that at all’

I’m just going to say it Alexander Dumbass Arcady is a complete numpty for breaking Hazel’s heart. Numpty for hurting her and Numpty for being so blind as to not realise he was hurting her. Ok, to be fair, Alexander doesn’t HAVE to love her, he may not even be right for her and one can’t expect the object of your affections to love you and unrequited love is part of pretty much all teenagers experience- certainly for more than might admit it’s all their experience for a while!!

I JUST wonder if his crush on Daisy is partly because she is awesome as a person and he’s slightly star struck and more because at that time boys like him were supposed to fall for and marry girls like Daisy? But I’m totally with Daisy in this regard he’s still an utter puppy and a bit of a drip who is at this point utterly undeserving of the magnificence that is Hazel, but whether he has potential shall be seen.

Further extract from my casebook

Overall, I loved this one, it’s such an exciting and immersive adventure, I cringe and pain for Hazel, I ADORE George Mukherjee he is wonderful and it was nice (and good!) to see Daisy being forced to cooperate for once instead of directing all the action. I particularly enjoyed seeing the girls interact with the ‘real world’ and the problems that are faced there rather than the more artificial environment of Deepdean.

The food in this one is also insanely good and given me an idea!!!

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens is published by Puffin

15 thoughts on “MMU Marathon 5: Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

    1. George is my favourite boy in this series! I’ve been a bit slow on the posting 🙈 I’ve finished them all now but haven’t typed up everything from the casebook and then had to have good enough light to take pictures (we’ve had some grim & grey days!!) but hopefully on a roll again!!

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    1. Of course with the announcement of book 9 being the last (well MG or with Daisy & Hazel in charge at least- I have hope either for YA or Rose & a girl she meets taking over- or both) I realise I do not have enough space in the book thanks to a few mistakes in planning earlier on & glued pages so I may have to rewrite the whole book to stop book 9 being in its own casebook all lonely!!!

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    2. I have a theory of what will happen that I very much hope comes true! So sorry for taking an age to comment on this by the way- the history essay from hell/other things you already know about have rather monopolised my time the last few days!

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    3. I think she’ll do a wartime spinoff- I know that Hazel works at Bletchley and Daisy as a spy so there’d be plenty of material and I’m sure they could secretly work together at some points! Kind of like what Katherine Woodfine’s done with Taylor and Rose! I’m so emotional about the end of MMU (me and Robin always say I’ve basically grown up alongside Daisy and Hazel which is true, I was 12 when I read the first book, and they’ve been very important to me ever since!) But I would love to read about that chapter of their lives so much, hard as I think it would be in places 💜

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    4. I think it’s more of the fact of ages? Some historical liberties may have to be taken to make it more traditional YA (ie around 18) and not them in their early 20s.

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    5. Oh that’s fair! I think when the series is such an institution at this point that she could probably get away with doing YA with characters in their early 20s, maybe! Katherine Woodfine is doing MG with eighteen year olds which is v unusual x

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