Young detective story fans at Ripon Grammar School got to solve their own murder mystery with a top children’s author who revealed the secrets behind the success of her best-selling detective series.
Robin Stevens came to RGS to speak to more than 250 students from RGS and other local schools, explaining how she got into writing and what makes a good murder mystery story work.
Among them were three of the author’s biggest fans, Isla Davidson, 12, Qin Yi Yaw, 13 and Sophie Hooks, 12, who all enjoyed having the chance to create their own murder mystery tale, while discovering what makes a great detective.
And another fan, fifth former Amy Burgess, enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime chance of interviewing her favourite author in the school library before the writer’s presentation to younger students.
Amy, from Ripon, who believes everyone should read in order to immerse themselves in worlds other than their own, said: “Robin Stevens was extremely kind and answered my questions with enthusiasm, which was an amazing experience.”
Qin Yi, from Ripon, who has read all eight books in Stevens’s classic boarding school Murder Most Unladylike series, said: “I like the way they are all quite unique and different. And the stories suck you in, right to the very end. It was really interesting to hear how she thinks up plots and storylines.”
RGS boarding student Isla Davidson, from Bedale, explained that she was halfway through the series, set in the fictional Deepdean School for Girls, and hooked: “The books are so much fun to read. It’s been interesting to see the person behind them and find out more about how she came to write them.”
Sophie Hooks, from Dishforth, told how she has always loved murder mysteries and enjoyed reading the whole series: “I love the fact they have people my age in the stories and it was great to hear all about the author’s life today.”
The popular American-born English author told a packed hall how she became gripped by murder mysteries, especially Agatha Christie’s, as a child, when her experience as a boarding student provided the perfect setting for her future novels: “I liked adventures and puzzles that had to be worked out.”
She told students how glancing out of a train and seeing a couple meet, in the distance, at the top of a hill was the initial inspiration behind Top Marks for Murder, the highly anticipated eighth mystery in her best-selling series, which is set in the 1930s and follows the adventures of youthful detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong.
Stevens explained her fascination with murder mystery stories from a young age: “They’re guaranteed to be interesting, with lots of plotting and twisting. I used to sneak around and spy on adults, and uncovered lots of fascinating secrets. Murder mysteries mirror the way, in real life, everybody has secrets.
“We’re all terrified of crime and of bad things happening to us and want to make sure it doesn’t. But in murder mysteries, we can think of murder in a safe place, without anything bad happening to us."
*Top Marks for Murder (Penguin UK/Puffin £6.99)