Friday, August 26, 2022

Fabulous Flavia

The Flavia De Luce Mysteries
by Alan Bradley

A delightful change in my summer diet of turgid murder mysteries!

11-year-old Flavia De Luce is a snoopy chemist/detective who lives with her father and two horrid older sisters in a decaying manor house in fictional England, circa 1950. Flavia inherited her late uncle’s chemistry lab (located in a remote wing of the house) where she becomes enthralled by his notes on chemical reactions and poisonous compounds. Using this knowledge, Flavia solves mysteries in the countryside and small towns around the De Luce estate. There are plenty of fresh (and even some not-so fresh) corpses to fuel her morbid interests as she determines the how and why of the murders. The plots are secondary to the characters and the often hilarious way Flavia looks at the world. She has a towering intellect but is still a child. She keenly observe the actions of her elders but cannot always understand their motivations, particularly when it concerns courtship and physical attraction. The narrative is sprinkled with literary allusions and nods to quirky British culture—always clever and often very funny. The main sub-theme concerns Flavia’s relationship with her late mother who died mysteriously when Flavia was only a baby.

There are ten Flavia novels out (plus a special eBook short story), a remarkable tally considering that Mr. Bradley didn’t start writing novels until he was 70 years old! While they are a bit formulaic there is plenty of “meat” to chew on in their “bones.” The only clunker of the lot is The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, which puts Flavia in a boarding school in Canada—out of her element and lacking the usual supporting cast. I would recommend reading them in order although they also work well as stand-alones. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows and The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place are exceptional. The series has been optioned for TV (don’t hold your breath, it’s for CBC!) and there is also an acclaimed audio version of each book. A much more nuanced look at this series is offered by Olivia Rutigliano in Crime Reads.

Highly recommended.

By Professor Batty


Post a Comment

                                                                                     All original Flippism is the Key content copyright Stephen Charles Cowdery, 2004-2023