Faithful readers will know that I absolutely adore this series by Canadian Alan Bradley. I have been eagerly awaiting the sixth entry in this fantastic series.
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches marks the return of Bradley's eleven year old sleuth - the intrepid, indefatigable, indomitable Flavia de Luce!
Flavia, her two older sisters and her father live at Buckshaw, a crumbling old mansion near the village of Bishop's Lacey, England. She's incredibly bright, with a passion for concocting and distilling poisons in a forgotten wing of the estate. She also has a propensity for happening upon dead bodies. Besides her lab, her greatest joy comes from solving 'whodunit'. If she can solve it ahead of the local constabulary, all the better!
Minutes before he finds his maker, courtesy of the train at Buckshaw Halt, a mysterious stranger approaches Flavia and desperately asks her to "Tell your father that the Gamekeeper is in jeopardy. He'll understand. I must speak to him. Tell him that the Nide is under - "
Over the last five books, Bradley has slowly been surely dropping hints about Harriet, Flavia's mother, who disappeared many years ago when Flavia was just a baby. There are few cracks in Flavia's armour, but the loss of her mother is one. Bradley finally reveals the answers to Harriet's whereabouts and in The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, takes the story to places I didn't see coming (But that I am very excited about!)
Why do I love this series so much? The time period, the crumbling mansion, the poky village and all of it's quirky inhabitants. All of the characters are wonderfully drawn, but it is Flavia and her busy little mind who captures me.
I've said it before and I'll say it again...."Flavia is one of the most endearing, captivating, curious, beguiling, precocious characters I've ever discovered in the pages of a book."
I love her view of the world - here are a few 'Flavia-isms'....
"I counted to eleven, partly because it was my age (although not for much longer) and partly because eleven seconds seemed to me a perfect balance between awe and insolence."
"One of the marks of a truly great mind, I had discovered, is the ability to feign stupidity on demand."
"As I have mentioned before, it has been my experience that a prolonged silence has the same effect as a W.C. plunger when it comes to unclogging a stuck conversation."
But, despite her talents, she is still a little girl. Bradley has fleshed out her character beyond her talents with poisons and her brilliant mind. Because, after all that she is still a lonely, little girl whose best friends are Dogger, the family retainer and Gladys - her bicycle. Flavia unconsciously transfers and attributes many of her own feelings to Gladys.
"There was nothing that excited Gladys more than sneaking out the back way. We had performed that maneuver together on many occasions, and I think she took a certain naughty delight in having the opportunity to do it again. She gave a tiny squeak of pleasure and I hadn't the heart to reprimand her."
" I thought of her sitting home alone, wondering why I had forsaken her. Although Gladys loved nothing better than whizzing hell-for-leather down hills, she loathed being shoved up them. It made both of us cranky."
See what I mean? I love her! I wanted to be Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy when I was younger. I devoured each and every book and carried around my own notebook full of observations and clues. Flavia will appeal to all ages, but I like imagining myself in her eleven year old shoes.
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 seventh book is released! Read an excerpt of The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches.
Flavia has a fan club - and of course I'm a member! Join the Flavia de Luce fan club. (Also, the UK is making this series into a television program in 2015)