On 14th March, Birkenhead School was delighted to host another Linghams Booksellers’ event and welcomed children’s author, Robin Stevens to the School.
Robin visited as part of her ‘Spoonful of Murder’ book tour, to talk to pupils about her new instalment of the thrilling ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ book series, which sees her main characters, Daisy and Hazel, visiting Hazel’s family in Hong Kong, where the two detectives’ services are required to help solve a mystery.
Robin spoke about her childhood, being born in Santa Cruz, California and then moving over to Oxford for her father’s position as Master of an Oxford College. As a child, Robin spoke of feeling out of place at the college, with all other residents being so much older than her and that her favourite pastimes became hiding and listening in on adult conversations and reading a lot.
After reading Enid Blyton books and solving the mysteries, Robin’s father gave her Agatha Christie’s ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ to read, with a challenge set to solve the mystery before the end of the book. Robin felt confident after solving the crimes in other books but was foiled by Agatha’s classic, “Agatha Christie fooled me” Robin says, as she confirms she wasn’t able to figure out the culprit. This encouraged Robin’s passion for reading, particularly reading murder mysteries, and she began to wish that there were books out there featuring characters she could relate to.
This passion for reading and for writing meant Robin wanted to do one thing – “to give stories to other people”; to write murder mysteries; a dream that she has not only achieved, but surpassed her expectations as a child.
Robin used to think it was weird that she was obsessed with murder mysteries but has been reassured since that there are many children who enjoy reading this genre and when Robin asks her audience “why murder mystery?” pupils answer that it “draws you in” and that “so many things can happen”, it’s clear that it’s not just Robin that finds these books “hard to put down”.
When thinking of the characters in her books, Robin describes Daisy as the leader who’s bold and brave and Hazel, the narrator of the book, as quieter and calmer, who enjoys reading and thinks logistically when solving the crimes. Hazel feels out of place at school and Robin confirms that this is how she felt when she started at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. This brings Robin on to the setting in her books, the school is based on her college, as she knew it so well, meaning she was able to take a familiar place and make it shocking in her books.
This familiarity was not the case in Robin’s latest book ‘A Spoonful of Murder’ and Robin decided she would visit Hong Kong, as part of her research, to really incorporate an accurate portrayal throughout the story.
Following a reading from this latest release, it’s now the pupils’ turn to detect and plan their own murder mystery. Robin starts by highlighting the sections of the plan needed, the setting, the victim, the clues, the suspects and the resolution and together they start to set the scene for their story. This shows Robin’s enthralled audience just how easy it can be to create the first plan of a mystery story.
There is such a buzz in the hall following this creative process and so many of the pupils are discussing what they’d like to include in their own stories; the group was well and truly inspired by this insightful talk from this much-loved author.