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The Ministry of Unladylike Activity by Robin Stevens - Review

Sunday, November 20, 2022

So here we go with Robin Stevens' new series! When I met Robin in Sheffield in late 2019 she talked a bit about her new series, which is starring Hazel's youngest sister, May Wong. She asked one child if she knew what happened at the end of the 1930s in Europe - the answer to which of course is World War Two. So I wasn't surprised to start this book when May is aged nearly ten. She came over to England from Hong Kong in her first mystery, with her father and Rose, to drop Rose off at Deepdean. However war broke out and May and her father weren't able to return home. Instead, May has been taken to Deepdean too. She hates it. She escapes, going to see Hazel, and she manages to see something about the Ministry of Unladylike Activity in London. She heads there, where she meets Eric, who has solved crossword clues in order to get to the Ministry, and wants to become a spy. The door there is answered by Daisy, who tells them both to go away, but May also has information about someone giving information to the Nazis from a stately home near Coventry. 

May and Eric then present themselves as evacuees and manage to get themselves sent to Elysium Hall, where they meet the Verey family - old Mrs Verey, her current husband, and her five children from two marriages. Leonard was killed in the first world war, leaving Sidney, Neil, Hugh and her daughter. Her daughter has just lost her husband and moved back to the family home with her daughter Fionnuala, who is grieving very deeply for her dad. Her dad was Irish and the family toured the world in a theatre company, so Nuala is finding it hard to fit in with her English family. Her mum is grieving and is very not present in Nuala's life currently. 

May and Nuala instantly clash with each other, but eventually realise they need to work together, especially when a murder happens and they're pretty sure that it's been set up to look like an intruder. Eric is German and has had to leave all his family behind. May is missing Hong Kong deeply, and as I said Nuala is grieving for her dad and her old life. All three need each other in different ways - I liked how their friendships progressed through the book. 

This is a good first book in a new series - I look forward to seeing what happens next for the three of them. I loved the cameo from Daisy - up to her usual tricks - and wished we'd seen Hazel, but you can't have everything. I am giving this four out of five - when's the next one?! 

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