The Short Take:
Bradley’s ingenious and endearing Flavia de Luce continues to be a delight in this fourth outing. Once again, she is hot on the trail of a murderer, much to the chagrin of the local police. Inventive, courageous, and outrageous — Flavia is an outstanding heroine for all ages.
Bradley’s Flavia creations are just enchanting. This one is no exception. Eleven-year-old Flavia loves chemistry and a good murder. She, two older sisters (who delight in tormenting her), a disconnected father, and two unusual family retainers live on a vast yet crumbling estate in rural England in the 1950s.
While each book stands on its own, there is a connecting thread involving the disappearance of Flavia’s mother and the odd relationships between different members of the household. Bradley amusingly incorporates the eccentric behavior you love to find in households of this sort, where the money is gone and everyone adapts to their genteel poverty in quirky ways.
Written for all ages of readers, the Flavia de Luce mysteries can be genuinely enjoyed by all ages. Though the subject is murder, these tales are told with a light and breezy touch that keeps the story-telling charming rather than fearsome. While this may not be the strongest book in the series, it’s still a wonderful read.
A Little Plot:
Set at Christmas time (yes, I should have published this three months ago), two big things are happening at Buckshaw, the de Luce estate: Flavia is planning to catch Father Christmas by smearing sticky bird lime of her own creation on the chimney pots, and her father is allowing their home to be used as a movie set to bolster their dismal financial situation.
The legendary actress starring in the movie is enticed to put on a benefit performance at Buckshaw for the local church. The whole town turns up. A snowstorm traps everyone. And, a murder takes place.
Now Flavia has a dual mission — solve the murder while capturing Father Christmas, no matter how often she is told to cease and desist by the Inspector in charge. That’s our girl.
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