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Book Review: The Ministry of Unladylike Activity - a fast-paced, action-packed, thrill-ride

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

Written by: Robin Stevens

Publisher: Puffin Imprint - Penguin

Historical Setting: World War 2

Suggested Reading Age: 8 plus

I’ll be honest, I didn’t read this book. I consumed it. No, I devoured it. I frankly inhaled it! In fact, I don’t think I’ve read a book faster. The Ministry of Unladylike Activity was such an enthralling story, I didn’t want to stop. And when I did stop, I was wondering when I could go back for more. I came up with ways to manipulate my family members with excuses so that I didn’t have to eat with them at the dinner table (“but I’m at a good bit”… “I’m just not feeling very well”… “OH NO! My legs seem to have disappeared!”) and wondered if I could cope with their ridicule if I just set myself up in the bathroom all day so I didn’t have to waste valuable reading time by having to walk to the toilet and back! Now I’m oversharing.


What I’m saying is that this book is addictive. The story, set in Britain during the Second World War, follows a trio of children who find themselves embroiled in a murder plot. May and her friend Eric are determined to prove themselves as successful spies after being turned away from a secret army of spies working for the British government. Following a lead, they find themselves at the home of the wealthy Verey family, including young Nuala, where a shocking murder takes place. Soon even sworn enemies have to work together if the children want to uncover the secrets, expose the German spy and, ultimately, unmask the killer.


From the first page, author Robin Stevens sucks you in with her fast-paced, flowing, and easy-to-read writing style. Don’t be intimidated by the length of this book, it is packed with drama, action, and excitement. Stevens cunningly intertwines several different genres throughout the story to keep it fresh; this is a historic-fiction, murder-mystery, comedy-spy-thriller. What’s not to love? Plus, Stevens creates a trio of really fascinating and distinctive lead characters that seem to invite you to share their adventure.


Stevens clearly knows how to write a good mystery (we know that from her fantastic “Murder Most Unladylike” series). In Ministry of Unladylike Activity, she uncovers secrets and drip-feeds clues to the reader with expert skill. Plus, she cleverly adds recaps of the essential information into the storyline, which makes this mystery accessible for all ages and levels of sleuthing experience.


For me, one of the things that makes this murder mystery extra special is its setting in the Second World War. Stevens’ lead characters, all with a diverse range of backgrounds, give a refreshing child’s perspective on what Britain was like in 1940, alongside the occasional hilarious observation about the strange habits of the British! Stevens introduces the reader to the effects of the blitz through May who has limited experience of the effects of the war before the start of the book. Stevens’ attention to historic detail, particularly in the first few chapters of the book, has a breath-taking effect, immersing the reader in the setting.


The Ministry of Unladylike Activity is a fast-paced, action-packed murder-mystery thrill-ride that will have you addicted from the very first page. Stevens has created an electrifying storyline with a vivid historic setting, courageous characters, and a brain-scratcher of a mystery to solve. Highly Recommended.


A big thank you to Penguin for providing us with a review copy of The Ministry of Unladylike Activity.


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