Plum Sykes, author of Bergdorf Blondes, now sets her sights on Oxford, England in the 1980s, and a group of college students who are pretentious, too wealthy for their own good, and only interested in partying. Party Girls Die in Pearls is the first Oxford Girl mystery, introducing Ursula Flowerbutton.
Ursula is a "Fresher", a new student at Christminster College at Oxford. She hopes to be a reporter for Cherwell, the college newspaper, but she wouldn't mind meeting some posh students and attending some parties. Although Lady India Brattenbury doesn't invite Ursula to a party, another "Fresher", Nancy Feingold begs her to attend. Nancy, part of a wealthy gardening tool family from the United States, is dying to meet some of the upper-class British students. But, it's Ursula who finds India's body the morning after the drunken party. Now, she has the idea for a story for Cherwell. And, she has a reason to play "Nancy Drew".
While her nights are filled with parties, and her mornings with rowing, Ursula fits in time to pry into the stories of the students, and even her tutor. She and Nancy team up to discover who might have wanted India dead. A few too many people had reasons to dislike Lady Brattenbury, and some of them were too drunk to remember what they did the night of the murder.
Sykes' book is so caught up in the big hair, fashions, music and culture of the 1980s that there are numerous footnotes explaining '80s culture and Oxford slang and history. At times, it feels as if it's a Nancy Drew goes to Oxford mystery. I wasn't the right audience for Party Girls Die in Pearls. I'd recommend it only for new adults fascinated by the '80s.
Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes. Harper. 2017. ISBN 9780062429025 (hardcover), 352p.
FTC full disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.