Review Blog

Jul 20 2015

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

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Piccadilly Press, 2015. ISBN 9781848124370
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Humour. Mystery. When their headmistress and her brother are murdered, Smooth Kitty and her six fellow students decide to keep it a secret. They bury the bodies in the vegetable garden and dress up Stout Alice in the headmistress' place. But there is still a murderer on the prowl.
This is very funny take on a murder mystery and on the tradition of the farce genre. Each of the seven girls are named in such a way that the reader can keep in touch with their personality and appearance - although the amusing illustrations on the front cover and inside the book help as well. Smooth Kitty is the ring leader of the plot and she is the one who comes up with the ideas while having the ability to smooth over difficulties and tell smooth lies. Disgraceful Mary Jane is very pretty and loves to flirt madly with any young boy or man nearby. Stout Alice is plump but has the ability to act really well and to mimic other people's voices so she is perfect to pretend that she is Constance Plackett, the headmistress that the girls disliked. Pocked Louis has been marked by small pox when young, but she makes up her appearance with her brains and scientific ability. Dour Elinor always thinks the worst and is quite interested in death, while Dear Roberta is kind hearted and Dull Martha is not the brightest of children.
Set against a background of 1890, when young girls were expected to be prepared for marriage, even if they yearned to do more with their lives, the book romps along as the seven girls find their feet without adult supervision. Amid many moments of hilarity each girl displays her strengths and weaknesses, learning a lot about themselves and each other in the process. Underlying this is a thread of tension, as the reader tries to work out how the murders were committed and who might have a motive, all the while knowing that Stout Alice masquerading as the headmistress has been placed in grave danger.
A very enjoyable, feel good book that celebrates the different types of personalities of the girls and the friendships that hold them together The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow will be appreciated by readers who like a historical mystery with unusual in-depth characterisation.
Pat Pledger

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