Sunday, February 17, 2013

Speaking from Among the Bones Review

Speaking From Among the Bones is the fifth Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley. I thought I had previously reviewed the fourth book but apparently since I read it in 2011, I never reviewed it.

So anyway, Flavia de Luce is an eleven year old girl who lives in a huge old mansion (called Buckshaw) in the English countryside (in a tiny town called Bishop's Lacey) in 1950. Her mother, Harriet, died when she was only a year old so she lives with her father, an obsessive stamp collector who is barely present, and her older sisters Ophelia (Feely) and Daphne (Daffy). Poor Flavia is the odd one out. She's brilliant and spends most of her time in her laboratory in the unheated wing of the house where she also lives. She is obsessed with chemistry, especially poisons and spends much of her time alone.

In the first book The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (all the books have these ridiculously awesome titles), Flavia stumbled on her first dead body, which launched her into her detecting career. Flavia is ridiculously observant for the most part, while irritates the local inspector, who Flavia develops a bit of a crush on, even though she constantly suceeds in one uping him.

Flavia's world is populated by quirky characters in her tiny town, from Dogger, her father's manservant (who was deeply affected by being a prisoner during WWII... or actually maybe WWI - I can't remember off the top of my head) to the family's awful cook, Mrs. Mullet, to the local vicar. Alan Bradley, for an older male writer, does an amazing job at capturing Flavia's character. She is vivacious, intelligent and very much a young girl who always gets into scrapes despite her brilliance. She adores her bicycle which she named Gladys and takes everyone. She is constantly off on her own adventures and her family doesn't seem to pay too much attention to her.

In this novel, her father is on the verge of losing Buckshaw. The estate was in Harriet's name and since she died suddenly without leaving a will, the family is poorer than they should be and in danger of being turned out of their home.

This worries Flavia, but she has bigger concerns - the local saint's body is going to exhumed (I forgot why) but in the process (which of course she just wanders into the church to observe) the fresher body of the former organist in the church is found. This launches Flavia into a complicated investigation (these books are always a little bit complicated - but in a good way. You have to pay attention but really, every moment is so interesting, even if the rhythm of the book is sometimes confusing). And being Flavia, she has so much going on at all times that she gets distracted from one theory/mission and is onto another one quickly.

If you're a fan of mysteries, this is a fantastic series. Flavia is a really compelling (and unlikely) detective but the real joy is her as a little girl, wandering around this town by herself and getting into all kinds of adventures. She's absolutely delightful. These books seriously make me so happy. And this one ended with an awesome cliffhanger; one which was not entirely unexpected but still a bit shocking. I finished the book and immediately looked up book 6, which I was really sad to learn won't be out for another YEAR!

Do yourself a favor and pick up these books. They are a truly fun and exciting read!

Alan Bradley's Website

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble

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