Review: Speaking From Among the Bones, by Alan Bradley

Speaking From Among the Bones cover artSpeaking From Among the Bones, by Alan Bradley (Doubleday, 2012)

Flavia de Luce lives with her father and two older sisters in a decaying English country manor in 1951. She’s almost 12 and has already solved four murders, to the chagrin of the local constabulary (who are beginning to show her some grudging respect).

In this mystery, she discovers another body—this time in conjunction with the excavation of the village church’s patron saint’s tomb, honouring the 500th anniversary of his death. Why do the Bishop and the Magistrate want to block the project? What’s the secret hidden in the Magistrate’s creepy manor? And, of course, who killed the dead man?

Flavia’s family fortunes are slowly succumbing to what her father calls “His Majesty’s leeches” and in this novel the dreaded day comes when Buckshaw Manor must be put up for sale. The crisis, plus perhaps a bit of maturing among the sisters, gives them a common focus. I appreciate Alan Bradley’s deftly understated portrayal of the family dynamics, and I’ve come to care for the somewhat dysfunctional de Luces and their staff.

Although Flavia is a “child sleuth” there’s a rich depth to the stories that make them satisfying to (and designed for) adults. I like the humour and the word choices, and Flavia’s fixation with chemicals and poisons. She’s one of those delightful characters that you might not want to live with but who’s awfully fun to read about.

Alan Bradley’s mysteries are gentle reads in the “Golden Age” style, and this one ends with a surprising turn that has me a little perturbed about having to wait a whole year to find out what will happen next (in The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches). This is a series that builds on itself, so for maximum enjoyment a reader would begin with book 1, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. But you can start with any one of them and not feel out of place.

To learn more about Alan Bradley and the Flavia de Luce mysteries, visit Flavia de Luce or pop over to Canadian Living‘s Saturday Afternoon Book Club to read an interview with the author about this newest book in the series.

[Review copy from my local public library. Amazon link is an affiliate link for The Word Guild.]

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