The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, by Alan Bradley (Random House, 2014)
[This review contains a spoiler for the previous books in the series.]
There’s so much to love about Flavia de Luce: her quick wits, her unusual view of the world, her propensity for chemicals and poisons. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is book six featuring the somewhat dysfunctional de Luce family in their crumbling ancestral home of Buckshaw, England.
It’s 1951. Flavia will soon be 12. She and her sisters have matured, and events have bound them together—somewhat—but old habits of mutual torment die hard.
I confess I misunderstood the ending of the previous book, Speaking from Among the Bones. Flavia’s missing mother, Harriet, found? She’d been lost in a Himalayan expedition when Flavia was still too young to remember her. I envisioned a joyful reunion, expecting the accident had caused amnesia which would somehow now go away. A happy ending would be so heartwarming.
Instead, Harriet comes home in a coffin as sensible readers expected all along. It makes for a better story, including the requisite mysterious death, and as Flavia and her sisters find closure, Flavia also learns the truth of her mother’s death—and of her life.
The novel is more about unravelling the mystery surrounding Harriet than about who killed the man at the train station, but it all comes together in the end. If you had questions about Flavia and her unusual upbringing, they’re likely answered by The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches.
Internationally-bestselling author Alan Bradley’s bio says he’s working on more Flavia de Luce mysteries—reassuring, since The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches wraps things up so nicely. I’d been afraid we’d seen the last of Flavia. It will be a challenge writing this character as she grows up, but in many ways Flavia’s an old soul. I look forward to her next adventure.
[Review copy borrowed from a friend.]