Flavia de Luce is one of my favorite fictional detectives. Each time I read a new Alan Bradley book in the Flavia de Luce series, I wish I could put her in my pocket or sit down with her over tea on a cold, fall day. She reminds me of Harriet the Spy (my favorite childhood sleuth) with the love of science and observation of Sherlock Holmes. She’s feisty and smart, and who doesn’t love a twelve-year-old who wants to be a chemist and solve murders? In the latest two novels, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d (2016) and As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (2015), Bradley sends Flavia on a series of adventures both near and far.
In As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, Flavia has been banished across the ocean, shipped off to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy, a boarding school in Canada that her mother attended. Before she even settles into her room, a body tumbles out of the chimney in her bedroom, giving Flavia the chance to hunt down the murder; in doing so, she finds out that other girls have also disappeared without a trace. Away from her dear home, Buckshaw, in Bishop’s Lacey, England, Flavia starts to make friends with her classmates, decides how she feels about the headmistress, and can’t believe her luck in having a faculty member in chemistry who is an acquitted murderess. Even though Flavia solves the case, she is ejected from Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy and sent back to England for her next adventure.
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d brings Flavia back across the Atlantic where, once she lands, she learns that her father has fallen ill and is in the hospital. Although she is determined to visit her father, she is not allowed in the hospital until he has had time to rest. In the meantime, Flavia needs something to do. Tired of dealing with her two older sisters and a cousin whom she can’t stand, Flavia heads out and about to visit her friends, like the vicar’s wife. As she does a favor for the vicar’s wife by delivering a message to a wood- carver (riding on her trusty bicycle, Gladys), she finds his body hanging upside down on the back of his door with only a cat left on the scene. And Flavia is off on another adventure to find out what happened to this mysterious man.
Both books are classic Flavia. Set in the 1950s in a post-war England, the Flavia de Luce series is delightful. Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d is the eighth book in the series and Flavia remains unflappable and ready for an adventure before they even begin. Although Flavia has been through many personal trials, her dry wit, humor, intelligence, and mischievous nature are always a joy to be around. Alan Bradley deftly weaves Flavia’s narrative, capturing a twelve-year-old in a way that few can. If you haven’t yet picked up any books in this series, start at the beginning, you’ll fall in love with Flavia, and want to know what happens with her, her family, and the people who live in Bishop’s Lacey.
Note: This review was first published in PCA/ACA Mystery & Detective Reading List (Winter 2017)