Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Flavia, Flavia, Flavia

Cozy murder mysteries usually aren't my genre, but I absolutely adore the Flavia de Luce series. Flavia is a precocious, eccentric eleven year old growing up in 1950s England. Her greatest passions in life are studying chemistry, particularly poisons, and devising ways to poison her older sisters--Feely (Ophelia) and Daffy (Daphne). Being unusually bright, she has a great talent for worming her way into other people's business, exasperating the local Inspector, and solving murders while bicycling around on a bike she has christened Gladys.

I love her.

The book trailer above captures Flavia rather well, but here are a few more quotes from the first book.

Flavia, on her future book:
“If there is a thing I truly despise, it is being addressed as "dearie." When I write my magnum opus, A Treatise Upon All Poison, and come to "Cyanide," I am going to put under "Uses" the phrase "Particularly efficacious in the cure of those who call one 'Dearie.”
Flavia, on being the youngest daughter:
“It is not unknown for fathers with a brace of daughters to reel off their names in order of birth when summoning the youngest, and I had long ago become accustomed to being called 'Ophelia Daphne Flavia, damn it.”
 (Having grown up in a similar "brace of daughters," I can tell you that the dynamics among the sisters are spot on and hilarious in these books.)
Flavia, on self defense:
“I remembered a piece of sisterly advice, which Feely once gave Daffy and me: "If ever you're accosted by a man," she'd said, "kick him in the Casanovas and run like blue blazes!" 
Although it had sounded at the time like a useful bit of intelligence, the only problem was that I didn't know where the Casanovas were located.

I'd have to think of something else.”
The series so far consists of:
1. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
2. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag
3. A Red Herring Without Mustard
4. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows 
5. Speaking From Among the Bones
6. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (January 2014)

The books are quick reads, but are also wonderful to listen to (the narration in the book trailer above comes directly from the audiobook)! Books 1 through 4 build on each other, but I think they could be read in any order. That changes with book 5, which broke the mold and ended on a major cliff-hanger.

Which brings me to 'The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches'. The point of this entire review.

I was so excited to get an advance copy from NetGalley, I moved it to the top of my reading list. It was an excellent book. But I don't know how to review it in advance without spoiling anything. So, here are some spoiler-free thoughts (after the jump) about the book. Once it has been published, I hope to return with a more detailed review.

  • While books 1-4 were could easily stand alone, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches continues what began in Speaking From Among the Bones, building a more richer, more detailed world.
  • This book deals with a lot of the underlying mysteries that have been floating beneath the surface throughout the series so far. In fact, it does so rather well. There are a lot of answers in this book.
  • On the other hand, some of the plot twists/additions to this book were a bit over the top.
  • WWII intrigue. And a real historical figure makes an appearance as a character.
  • This is the first time I can recall Flavia referring to the fact that she's writing these books. She made two comments along the lines of "I should go back and cross that out, but I'm not going to." From when is she writing from? Is she an adult looking back on her childhood? Is it just a year or two from now? Or have I just missed this before?
  • Dogger! Dogger is so wonderful in this book. I wanted to give him even more hugs than usual.
  • Adam Sowerby returns
  • Flying and airplanes--I've had a soft spot for female pilots ever since Code Name Verity
  • Developing film with coffe (chemists of the world--is this really possible?)
  • Book 5 really played with my emotions. I teared up in a couple of scenes.
  • The characters take center stage even more than usual in this book. It's not as much of a mystery as it is a set-up book for the rest of the series.
  • And what a set-up it is! The series is going in a very different direction. 
Before publishing the fifth book, Bradley and his publishers decided that there will be 10 books in the series (see more details at an interview from Canadian Living). Giving the series an ending pointing seems to encouraged this world building and multi-book story arc. I'm 90% excited to see where this is going, though I do have a few reservations. Change is hard, everyone.

4 stars.

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