Thursday, November 21, 2013

A New Sleuth is on the Case!

If there is a thing I truly despise, it is being addressed as ‘dearie.’ When I write my magnum opus, A Treatise Upon All Poison, and come to ‘Cyanide,’ I am going to put under ‘Uses’ the phrase ‘Particularly efficacious in the cure of those who call one ‘Dearie.’’ 
-Flavia de Luce, the Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie 

A crumbling English manor house in the 1950’s. A plucky youngest daughter. A tiny village inhabited by colorful characters. Buried secrets. A whole lot of foul play.

Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series offers mystery, intrigue, and more chemical reactions than you can shake a Bunsen burner at. The youngest of three sisters, Flavia scorns the more traditional passions her sisters Ophelia and Daphne pursue (music and literature, respectively), instead throwing herself with characteristic abandon into the study of chemistry (particularly the manufacture of poisons) in her long-dead Uncle Tarquin’s Victorian laboratory.  She has a knack for finding murder victims and (maybe because she appropriates evidence?) is often several steps ahead of the local constabulary in cracking cases. 

It may seem odd at first to read an adult mystery novel by a retired Canadian gentleman who writes from the perspective an 11-year-old English girl sleuth, but you get over it pretty quickly. Flavia is some sort of rare and difficult genius, but she’s funny, brave, and endearingly naive. Each addition to the series is as well-written and minutely researched as the first, dealing with such varied subjects as postage stamps, puppetry, religious cults, movie stars, and saints. So go ahead, dearies, pick up the first book and reserve the others, because once you start you'll want to read them all! (And keep an eye out for the upcoming BBC series!)

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