*doorbell rings* "Oh, who ever it is, they gotta go away or they'll be killed."
Victorian murder mysteries and drawing room farces are genres that have faded away, but if they were all written with the wit ofThe Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, let's hope for a come back.
There's been a murder at St. Etheldreda's School for Girls and each of the seven students, defined by the poor home life that lead her to the institute, is determined to cover it up lest they be returned to the family that calls them Dull, Pocked, or Disgraceful.
The characters are intentionally one dimensional, with the exception of the girl who emerges as the main character who does undergo a surprising, (and forced,) amount of growth. I thought their adjectives and character traits lent the book most of its humor, though some of the characters, like the dumb one and the slutty one, ran thin by the end.
Still, the girls band together to solve a whole host of mysteries, starting with who killed poor Mrs. Plackett and moving down to jeweled elephants, missing wills, and falsified ledgers. This isn't one of those books where the question is whodunit, but instead, who didn't? Everyone has motive, from the reverend to the neighbor. (Fortunately there's no butler to have done it.) It's twisty, impossible to pin down, and full of red herrings, but when the mysteries all come out in the inevitable drawing room scene, the clues were all there. It's satisfying, though a few red herrings leave dangling plot threads.
The biggest problem with the novel is the size of the cast. With seven main characters, the deceased, a bevy of suspects, nosy neighbors, and constables, having six love interests felt like major overkill. They do all move along the plot in some way, so I can't point at one and say, "that's the superfluous one! Take him out!," but I wish they could have been pared down somehow.
I found The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place to be a exceptionally fun mystery with an old soul. It sacrifices character building for mystery building and suffers from some expendable threads, but if you liked Clue or want a feminist Sherlock Holmes, it's easy enough to sit back and enjoy the ride for what it is.