Monday, June 10, 2013

Ah, Flavia, how I do love thee!

5 out of 5 stars

I still say I'd love to have her as my child, if it weren't for my fear that she would continually get the best of me. Her intelligence and perspicacity are terrifying.

Once again, death has come to the village of Bishop's Lacey. However, Flavia's already involved with a dead body, that of St. Tancred, whose tomb underneath the village church (which also bears the saint's name) has become the subject of an archaeological dig. Flavia has managed to insert herself into the proceedings, to no-one's surprise, so her eyes are the first to light upon the contents of St. Tancred's tomb. However, what she finds is not the moldering body of a saint, but the very recently deceased corpse of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist. As always, Flavia, with the help of her trusty 2-wheeled steed Gladys, takes it upon herself to solve the murder, though she's kind enough to leave a few clues for her frequent sparring partner, Inspector Hewitt, to solve. As Flavia unravels the convoluted web of deceit, family secrets, and greed at the heart of Mr. Collicutt's murder, an even more shocking secret is revealed, culminating in a doozy of a cliffhanger ending.

This novel, though it was still filled with Bradley's trademark wit, not to mention an engaging mystery, felt more intimate than previous entries in the series. The connections between Flavia and her family are explored in greater detail, allowing us to see the affection, hidden though it may be most of the time, which exists within the de Luce family. Don't worry, there's still plenty of hissing and sniping between Flavia and her sisters Ophelia (“Feely”) and Daphne (“Daffy”), but there are also some genuine moments of emotional bonding. And this is due to the overarching family drama running through the background of all these mysteries finally coming to a head. As we learned in the previous novels, Buckshaw, the de Luce's family home, actually belonged to Flavia's mother, Harriet. When she disappeared while mountaineering in the Himalayas, Flavia's father has struggled to maintain the large house in the years since. Now, though, those struggles have come to an end: The money's run out and all that's left is to sell Buckshaw and move the family to a smaller place. Naturally, this comes as quite a blow to everyone, none more so than Flavia, who struggles to deal with the loss of the old pile and especially her laboratory, a magnificent space kitted out with all the very best chemistry equipment by her uncle, Tarquin de Luce. Not only is it a place where Flavia carries out her chemical sleuthing, it is her sanctuary, her place of escape when she's suffered at the hands of her tormenting sisters and dreams up gruesome deaths by obscure poisons in revenge. But now, with the big reveal at the end of the novel, what will this all mean for the de Luce's and for Flavia? I can't wait to find out! Bradley has been signed by Delacorte to write five more Flavia novels, which is just fabulous news, as that means they'll be plenty more Flavia adventures to come!

On a side note, I have mixed emotions concerning the news that Sam Mendes has bought the rights to produce five two-hour television movies based on the series. Or, at least that's the plan. On the one hand, Mendes is good at what he does and the fact that he'll be working with a television/mini-series format as opposed to a big screen/movie series one is reassuring. It means more quality control and less chance of things falling apart. On the other hand, I cannot think of any young actress today who could embody the precociousness, the intelligence, the bull-headed, impish, shrewd nature of Flavia and actually pull it off. Not to mention the potential changes a scriptwriter or even Mendes himself might or will make to the story terrifies me. What if they think that the 1950's setting isn't exciting enough? What if they decide to update it, set it in London, or, god forbid, set it in America? Oh, man, I'm going to have nightmares!

Read November 29-December 24, 2012
Reviewed for the Amazon Vine Program February 16, 2013

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