“I would keep my tongue tamed and my lip zipped. Never let it be said that Flavia de Luce was a blabber-mouth.
But what was this? Inspector Hewitt had caught my eye and was motioning with a sideways jerk of his head and an upward rolling of his eyes, a message I could read as clearly as if it were a newspaper headline.
UPSTAIRS, it said. NOW.”
Flavia is growing up. In this fifth Flavia de Luce mystery, there seems to be more happening within her family relationships than the secondary issue of a murder mystery to be solved.
Bucklands (Flavia’s home) is still in jeopardy as her father scrambles to find a solution to his financial woes to keep it going. Flavia continues her chemistry experiments and gains a new pet. And she continues to push the limits in discovering answers to problems like, who murdered the church organist (Mr. Collicutt, who had been missing for over six weeks)? and, what happened to the diamond that was buried in St. Tancred’s tomb? Why was Flavia’s mother corresponding with the magistrate’s son? and, why is the magistrate’s son imprisoned on a top floor of their home?
Within these mysteries are also the mysteries of human nature that Flavia is just beginning to discover.
Flavia’s character and exploits are as delightful as ever in this fifth mystery of the series. Flavia is not yet twelve, but she knows how to pick locks, how to use a chemistry set to unlock the mysteries within solutions (like blood), and she even knows how to find out information by listening (with a clever apparatus of the most simple materials) through chimneys.
“We were strolling pleasantly in the long grass at the back of the churchyard, the Inspector and I.
“Your footprints are everywhere in that tunnel,” he said, pointing back toward Cassandra Cottlestone’s busy tomb.
I pretended surprise and bafflement. I could easily point out that there were plenty of people who wore plimsolls.
“Don’t bother,” he said. “we have your footprints on file.”
“As well as your fingerprints,” he added.
Like a lot of twelve year-olds, Flavia is beginning to think more and ask questions about her world as she observes the interactions around her:
“If only we could go back to the good old days of a week ago when, as unpleasant as they might have seemed, we were revolving securely in our dusty old orbits….
Could it be that goodness waxes and wanes like the moon, and that only evil is constant?
If I could find the answer to that question, perhaps everything else would come clear.”
Flavia is good at coming up with answers on the spot when questioned, (a talent that most adults do not possess!), and in this novel, for maybe the first time, Flavia begins to show her young age through emotion and normal human responses. Watching a gutsy, tough, and creatively innovative almost-twelve year-old suddenly tranform from self-confidence into heart-tugging vulnerability is actually a refreshing twist that prompts an emotional response from the reader:
“How odd, I thought: Here were these four great grievers, Father, Dogger, the vicar, and Cynthia Richardson, each locked in his or her own past, unwilling to share a morsel of their anguish, not even with one another.
Was sorrow, in the end, a private thing? A closed container? Something that, like a bucket of water, could be borne only on a single pair of shoulders?
To make matters worse, there was the fact that the entire village was sheltering each of them in a cocoon of silence.”
I am unsure of where Alan Bradley, the author, came up with the boyish and entertaining pranks that Flavia gets herself into (and a bit skeptical that SOMEONE in that village would not have complained more than once to her father?)
Be that as it may, Flavia is pretty much left on her own in this series to get into trouble and danger, more than once (probably even an average of three times in each novel in the series!)
And, the author cleverly leaves the reader with a cliffhanger for the ending, to ensure that our curiosity will guarantee a read of the next book in the series (I know it worked for me!)
A couple events in the book do make me question as to whether they are believable or no….(one of them being when Flavia discovers something in Mr. Collicut’s room that the police somehow missed). The scene near the end with Miss Tanty, to be honest, is also not a believable one for me….but, since this is fiction, I am letting the author get away with it : ) (and, especially since I had to keep reading anyway! I wanted to know if my guess as to the culprit was correct.)
See you when I’ve read the next book in the series (“The Dead in their Vaulted Arches”)!