Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series. Well, the wait is over - the eighth book - Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd has just released. I've devoured it and will be waiting (and not patiently) for the ninth book in this absolutely wonderful series.
Early 1950's. Twelve year old Flavia has been drummed out of Miss Bodycote's Female Academy in Canada and sent packing back to England. She arrives home in time for the Christmas holidays, but much has changed in the few short months she's been gone. But what hasn't changed is Flavia's penchant for finding dead bodies. Or should I say that the bodies find Flavia? On an innocent errand for the vicar's wife, Flavia stumbles across yet another. And her reaction?
"It's amazing what the discovery of a corpse can do for one's spirits."
I'm drawn to the time period, the crumbling mansion the de Luces live in, the small village of Bishop's Lacey, the quirky inhabitants of the village, the characters and the whole idea of a very clever amateur girl detective.
A younger cousin has been introduced in the storylines of the last two books. I'm not completely sure yet how I feel about her (and either is Flavia), but Undine is beginning to grow on me. The enigmatic family retainer, Dogger, is my favourite supporting character, turning up at just the right moment with just the right (or no) words. He sees past the clever front Flavia presents, to the sometimes lonely little girl often left to her own devices. (Did I mention the chemistry lab in the moldering east wing? Flavia is quite adept at poisons....)
Lonely enough that her best friend is Gladys - her bicycle. Flavia often attributes her own feelings and thoughts to Gladys.
"Gladys gave a little squeak of delight. She loved coasting as much as I did, and if there was no one in sight, I might even put my feet up on her handlebars: a bit of bicycle artistry that she loved even more than ordinary free-wheeling."
"Gladys loved to pretend she was being abducted. She was being amusing, I knew, and because it helped pass the time until we reached the road, I did not discourage her."
I enjoy the mysteries that Bradley concocts and this one is fairly complex - woodcarvers, witches, childhood storybooks and more, but it is Flavia that's the main event for me. I love her mind, her deductions and her outlook on life:
"Life with my sister Daffy had taught me that you could tell as much about people by their books as you could by snooping through their diaries - a practice of which I am exceedingly fond and, I must confess, especially adept."
"Thanks to my Girl Guide training, I was able to bluff convincingly when required. All those wet and windy Wednesday evenings spent in cold, drafty parish halls were paying off at last."
"There is an art to staging a convincing accident. It is not as easy as you may think - particularly on short notice. First and foremost, it must look completely natural and spontaneous. Secondly, there must be nothing comical about it, since comedy saps sympathy."
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 always wanted to be a detective (like Nancy Drew or Harriet the Spy) when I was younger. In Flavia I get to imagine it all over again.
"The world can be an interesting place to a girl who keeps her ears open."
The mystery is solved by the final pages, (and really with Flavia on the case, was there ever any doubt?) and the door has been left open (a bit of a shocking ending really) for the next entry in this series. Each entry in this series answers question, but (happily for this reader) leaves just as many unanswered.
The titles for Bradley's novels are always curiously interesting. This latest, if you've not already recognized it, is a line from the witch's scene in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Double, double, toil and trouble......
Read an excerpt of Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd. I loved it - five stars for this reader!
(And yes, I suppose you could read this as a stand-alone, but I really think you should start at the beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.)