At 5:40 p.m. on Monday, October 29, Hazel Wong runs back to the school gymnasium to grab the sweater she left behind — and there lying on the floor under the balcony is her science teacher, Miss Bell. She’s dead.
Hazel rushes to get her friend Daisy, president of their two-person Detective Society. When they return to the gym five minutes later, the body is gone.
The students at school are told that Miss Bell has resigned. Right away, Daisy and Hazel know they not only have to figure out who killed Miss Bell, but they need to prove that the crime even happened.
Daisy seems to see the situation as a game — a big puzzle to solve — but Hazel can’t get it out of her head that her teacher is dead and the murderer was probably right nearby when she first saw the body. She’s afraid that if she and Daisy aren’t careful in their investigation, they could become the next target.
Set in an English boarding school in the 1930s, this is the first in the Wells and Wong mystery series.
Genre: mystery, historical fiction
J’s take on it:
I debated whether to include this book on my list last fall. A murder mystery for middle-grade readers? A dead teacher on the gymnasium floor? I though the book was really well done, but I wasn’t sure how it would be received by fifth and sixth grade students.
Turns out, they loved it.
It often came up as a favorite when I surveyed kids at the end of my presentation. Twice in the first two weeks, I had to tug it out of a fifth grader’s hands when I was leaving. One girl asked if she could please keep it — she was already hooked in the first five minutes. I explained that it was my display copy and I had to use it for other classes. Her response: “Can I have it after school then?”