Ahh, there's nothing better than settling in for the day with a new book by a favourite author. And that's how I spent a recent Sunday - on the couch beneath a sunny window enjoying the latest adventures of Alan Bradley's eleven year old sleuth - Flavia de Luce. Speaking From Among the Bones is the fifth book in this absolutely delightful series.
It's 1951. Flavia, her sisters and her father live at Buckshaw, the crumbling family home in the hamlet of Bishop's Lacey, England. Young Flavia seems to have a propensity for finding dead bodies.
"In the recent past, there had been a number of murders in Bishop's Lacey: fascinating murders in which I had rendered my assistance to Inspector Hewitt of the Hinley Constabulary. In my mind, I ticked off the victims on my fingers: Horace Bonepenny, Rupert Porson, Brookie Harewood, Phyllis Wyvern.....One more corpse and I'd have a full hand."
The congregation of Saint Tancred's church is quite excited, and no one more than Flavia. It's the 500th anniversary of the Saint's death and the tomb beneath the church is being opened. But as the crypt is opened, it seems that Flavia has her full hand after all - the body of the missing church organist is found on top of the tomb. And of course, Flavia must investigate.
As always, Bradley has concocted a good mystery. But truly, it's the irrepressible Flavia that is the draw for me. I fell in love with her from the opening pages of the first book. As the series has progressed, so have the lives of the de Luces. This eleven year old, poison concocting, lock picking, ,brilliant. imaginative little girl was such a novelty to me in the first book. (And quite frankly took me back the days when I too carried around a little notebook, 'solved' mysteries and spied on family members.) But as the series has progressed, Bradley has taken things a step further and given the lives of the de Luces much more depth.
Flavia is the youngest of the three sisters. The older two do their best to antagonise Flavia. She is actually quite a lonely little girl, with her best friends being the old family retainer Dogger and Gladys - her trusty bicycle. Gladys is always part of the investigative forays.
"I parked Gladys on the north side of Cassandra Cottlestone's tomb and gave her leather seat a pat. The silver glint of her handlebars reminded me of a frightened horse showing the whites of its eyes. 'Keep a sharp lookout,' I whispered. 'I'll be right back."
The bicycle is also dear to Flavia because it once belonged to her mother Harriet. Harriet had left Buckshaw when Flavia was very small and Flavia is longing to know more about her. Bradley has teasingly released a little more of this story in every new book and drops a bombshell in Speaking From Among the Bones. There are other changes afoot as well - the lives of the de Luces are about to change.
I love how Flavia's mind works. How could you not be engaged by a character who "whenever I'm a little blue I think about cyanide whose color so perfectly reflects my mood. It is pleasant to think that the manioc plant which grows in Brazil, contains enormous quantities of the stuff in it's thirty-pound roots, all of which, unfortunately, is washed away before the residue is use to make our daily tapioca."
Absolutely, positively recommended! If you haven't read any of this series yet, I encourage you to start at the beginning. For established Flavia fans - you won't be disappointed. And like me, you'll be counting down the days until the sixth book is released! Join the Flavia de Luce fan club.