It is easy to dread going back to school. Early mornings, ugly uniforms, long days and infuriating new pupils who seem determined to steal your thunder. But you are a detective, and a detective is ready for anything. You must simply remember to take tiresome circumstances and unpleasant surprises and turn them to your advantage…

Robin Stevens Back to School

1. Dress for success

Appearance is important. Especially if you want to be a popular, super-case-solving detective. You must look the part. Never be without the objects that will help you solve a case: a magnifying glass, a torch, a notebook and pencil (if you have a good secretary, she will carry these for you), some useful string and a hairpin to pick locks. Of course, make sure to look subtly better than everyone else. If a new girl (or boy, if you go to that kind of school) arrives and makes themselves the centre of attention, you must simply work hard to be more fascinating than they are. Invest in an amusing new mannerism, ensure you are given the main part in the school play or become the captain of the team. The others will soon remember that you are the best. But remember that although it is fun to be popular, by far the most crucial part is to dress for yourself. Being yourself is always cool. 

2. Find your friends

Although much of school life is about putting on a front, it is also important to make true friendships. School is a dull, trying affair, and if you attempt to face down cruel older girls, annoying shrimps and bothersome popular rivals alone you will be doomed to failure. Find someone who shares your interests, who thinks you amusing and who does not mind spending time with you. I used to think it was best to have a friend who agreed to everything you said and remained quiet the rest of the time, but I must admit I have come to almost enjoy my own friend Hazel’s newfound boldness. She does not always agree with me, these days, and even comes up with her own ideas, and although I would never have expected it, I find myself… well, fonder of her than ever. She has become someone who is enormous fun to be around – although do not tell her I said that.

3. Create a detective society

Once you have a friend (I don’t think you need more than one, but Hazel has other ideas), you must find a purpose for your friendship. School, as I have said, is deadly dull – most of the facts you are required to learn are utterly uninteresting and quite obvious – so the only thing for it is to have something else more interesting to think about. Creating a detective society is an excellent idea, for it means you’ll never run out of things to say to each other. You can find tips for creating a detective society in my book Cream Buns and Crime – it really has made my life enormously more interesting.

4. Spy on the grown-ups

Your detective society will need something to detect, and of course, the most interesting people in any school are the adults – the teachers and the parents – that surround you. Now, the adults in your life may appear dull, but in fact, this is a cunning ruse they are playing on you. Pause for a moment and consider: what do you really know about them? Could they, perhaps, have a secret? Might they even be leading an entirely separate, secondary life that they don’t wish children to know about? The possibilities are endless. Please note that you must keep your suspicions of grown-ups ENTIRELY hidden. Your mission is to appear as ordinary and uninteresting as possible. It is best if they cannot even remember your name. Only YOU know that you have them under constant surveillance, ready to pounce the moment they reveal their true natures!

5. Keep an eye out for interesting mysteries!

A good detective knows that they must be constantly on the alert, ready to begin a case at any moment. School might SEEM ordinary, but there is really no such thing. You and your detective society must be always watching, always ready. Who is driving that unusual car? Who broke the form-room window? Where did all of the biscuits go? Why does the school pet suddenly have different markings? All of these things may be the start of your first case. (Hazel would like me to remind you all, though, that it is no good getting yourself killed or injured in the pursuit of a crime. A dead detective cannot solve anything, so please telephone your version of Inspector Priestley if you are at all concerned. This is dull advice but probably reasonable.)

6. Take a bun-break

And finally, remember that brain work is hungry work, and detectives work best when they have eaten properly! Hazel and I take several bun-breaks during each case, and our deductions are vastly improved by each one. The lovely thing about school is they give you plenty of food…

 

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