Review posted February 15, 2012.
Delacorte Press, New York, 2011. 293 pages.
2011 Sonderbooks Standout: #4 Other Fiction
Lovely! A fourth Flavia DeLuce book! I am so happy with how quickly Alan Bradley is writing! And I was all the more happy when I saw this was a Christmas book. I thought it an interesting coincidence that I read two Christmas mysteries this year (The other was A Christmas Homecoming, by Anne Perry), and both involved a theatrical company secluded at an English country home at Christmas in a snowstorm, when a murder occurs. Honestly, I enjoyed this one more because it had Flavia deLuce!
If you haven't met Flavia before, you will probably do fine just reading this one; you will get the idea. But all the books are so much fun, I do recommend reading them all.
Flavia is an 11-year-old chemical genius with a deep love of poisons. And she's very good at solving mysteries, but not so good at leaving crime solving to adults. Her mother died years ago climbing mountains, and her father doesn't pay a lot of attention to bringing up his three daughters. Flavia and her older sisters manage to torment each other rather mercilessly. I did like that it wasn't quite as bad in this installment -- they showed some affection for each other at Christmas.
I love Alan Bradley's titles, and this one comes from Alfred Tennyson's poem, "The Lady of Shalott." In this book, Colonel de Luce, still needing to raise money, has rented out Buckshaw to a film company. The family is still planning to use their own rooms. But then, with the village visiting to see the great film stars perform Romeo and Juliet, a blizzard hits and everyone camps out at Buckshaw -- and someone dies. Flavia herself finds the body -- in the middle of the night.
I've always said that a nice murder mystery makes the perfect Christmas reading, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. If you can't be snowed in yourself, how nice to read about others being snowed in, anyway. And I still can't help but love Flavia. In this book, she does some excellent deducing, and it's her own home, so surely she can be forgiven for nosing where she's told to stay away?
Here are some words from Flavia herself:
Most chemists, whether they admit it or not, have a favorite corner of their craft in which they are forever tinkering, and mine is poisons.
While I could still become quite excited by recalling how I had dyed my sister Feely’s knickers a distinctive Malay yellow by boiling them in a solution of lead acetate, followed by a jolly good stewing in a solution of potassium chromate, what really made my heart leap up with joy was my ability to produce a makeshift but handy poison by scraping the vivid green verdigris from the copper float-ball of one of Buckshaw’s Victorian toilet tanks.
Flavia de Luce isn't someone you forget in a hurry. This is a lovely addition to the series, and I hope that Alan Bradley continues to add books quickly.