Saturday, February 23, 2013


Pages: 378
Date: 23/02/2013
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 5 Flavia de Luce
            Received from Random House
            Through NetGalley
Own / Kindle

The official blurb:

“Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sisters’ diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of St. Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s never such thing as an open-and-shut case.”

This is the fifth book featuring the precocious Flavia de Luce and she is as clever, curious, bold and infuriating as ever. Always among the first to witness anything that happens in the little town of Bishop’s Lacey it is hardly surprising that Flavia is among those present when the tomb of St. Tancred is opened despite objections from the Bishop and the local magistrate. And she is as surprised as everybody else when the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist who has been missing for six weeks, is discovered with, rather shockingly, a gas-mask on his face. Never one to curb her curiosity and always eager to outsmart Inspector Hewitt, Flavia embarks on yet another of her investigations. Accompanied by her trusted bike “Gladys”, our young investigator travels Bishop’s Lacey and its surrounding areas talking to anybody who might be able to throw some light on the mystery of why the organist would have been murdered and left in such an obscure place. Over the course of her investigation Flavia doesn’t only uncover clues about the reasons behind the murder though. She also has a close encounter with her mother’s (Harriet’s) past; an encounter that will put a stop to her sisters’ powers to hurt her once and for all.

But there is more happening in Flavia’s life. It seems that her father has at last lost his battle against the creditors and that they may lose their home “Buckshaw”. And while Flavia’s sisters are suddenly less horrible towards her than they have been in the past, the girl finds herself inclined to think kinder thoughts about them too. In fact, Flavia doesn’t quite understand her own emotions and reactions anymore. Everything that appeared to be emotionally straight-forward in the past is suddenly new and surprising to her and she has no idea what may be at the root of that change.

This is a wonderful series of mystery books. Flavia is as endearing a protagonist as she can be infuriating. While the idea of a twelve year old girl not only investigating but also solving murders is charming, the girl herself comes across as a bit too smart, too insightful, for her age at times. Having said that, her smarts appear to be limited to science and murder; when it comes to human emotions, her own and those of others, she is exactly as you would expect to see in one so young. And this makes for a wonderful and at times funny combination.

I liked the setting of this book; Rural England in the 1950’s makes for a charming place and also helps to explain why a young girl is able to freely travel her surroundings without worried parents and neighbours trying to stop her. In many ways this book reminds me a bit of Agatha Christie stories; the county setting, where everybody knows each other; the charming but rather clueless priest; and, of course, the unlikely but very successful investigator, be it that Miss Marple and Flavia are on different extremes of the age scale. The fact that Mrs. Christie’s books are mentioned in this story therefore put a big smile on my face.

Another thing I love in these books is the near perfect balance between the excitement of solving the mystery and the details of Flavia’s turbulent life. Flavia may have a child’s ability to more or less ignore the bigger problems brewing around her, she can’t help being affected by them and suffering under her inability to do anything useful to help. I like the way we see Flavia grow up over the course of these books and although I hope we won’t be confronted by too much teenage angst in books to come it will be fun to see how she and the people around her fare in future stories.

And talking about future stories; this book ends on a rather massive cliff-hanger and I can’t wait to find out what exactly that last line of the book means for Flavia and her family.

This is a wonderfully plotted and very engaging mystery featuring an original and fascinating main character; a book I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys well written cozy mysteries.

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