Party Girls Die in Pearls
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
Date Published01 June 2017
Price£ 14.99

Party Girls Die in Pearls

by Plum Sykes

Fresher Ursula Flowerbutton arrives for her first term at Oxford hoping for ballgowns and determined to write for student newspaper Cherwell. When another student is murdered, Ursula and her best friend, American Nancy Feingold, investigate.


Country girl Ursula Flowerbutton arrives at Christminster College for her first term reading history at Oxford University. She is expecting to spend her evenings reading studious tomes and drinking hot chocolate, but is hoping for champagne and the opportunity to wear her one ballgown. She also hopes to write for the famous student newspaper, Cherwell.

The first person she meets is Nancy Feingold, fellow history student and daughter of an American garden supplies mogul. Nancy is rich, flamboyant and intends to party her way through life in Oxford. As they attend the freshers’ week parties and meetings, the girls become firm friends. They meet the other residents of the college, the mousy Claire Potter, Lady India Brattenbury, Prince Otto Schuffenecker of Carinthia, Lord Wentworth Wychwood, their unconventional tutor Dr David Erskine and the college staff.

The perfect opportunity to write for Cherwell arises when India Brattenbury is found dead in Dr Erskine’s study. Ursula is determined to get her scoop, and sets out to solve the mystery. She uncovers illicit affairs, unrequited love and old infidelities, all the time partying her way around Oxford – she soon finds out that her party wardrobe is completely inadequate – and struggling to actually write an essay.

This book is a deliciously fun take on university life in the 1980s. The world it describes is one of extravagance, parties, love affairs and a complete disregard for the need to do any academic work! I did find the constant footnotes explaining aspects of 1980s culture irritating, but I could appreciate that they may have been helpful to an audience of a different generation or background. Without giving too much away, the plot device that finally allows the girls to solve the murder felt quite contrived and the explanation of the murder motive was complicated to say the least.

Overall, this book is a light-hearted, fun romp through a murder investigation by an amateur who is not restricted by police rules and who takes a sideways look at the high society characters she meets.

Reviewed 03 February 2018 by Sylvia Wilson