Number of pages: 271
Format: hardcover and paperback
Publisher: DoubleDay Canada
Genre: detective mystery
Rating: ages 18 and up
Notes: book 4 of the Flavia de Luce series
It’s Christmas time at Buckshaw as the villagers of Bishop’s Lacey are invited to see an once-in-a-lifetime show featuring a celebrated actress, Phyllis Wyvern. But Flavia de Luce has other plans as she concocts a scheme to catch Saint Nickolas in his tracks. As the film crew arrives everyone’s excited to watch Wyvern perform, but their excitement is put to a halt as the actress is found dead in her room. With her detective cap on, Flavia rolls up her sleeve to solve the crime and with a long list of suspects; she must use every ounce of her wit to find the guilty party.
Nothing says Happy Christmas than finding a limp body of an actress with a film reel tied around her neck in a neat little bow. For the first time in the series, Buckshaw Mansion has become a crime scene for the tragic murder of Phyllis Wyvern. And as Flavia de Luce discovered her first, she is quick to make observations of the body. Flavia is no ordinary 11-year-old as her unusual qualities not only include her knowledge of chemistry, but she also finds the dead far more interesting than the living: “…I’ve seen a number of corpses. Each of them was interesting in a different way, and this one was no exception.”
I admire Flavia. She’s a chemistry genius and a sleuth in training as she goes against anyone’s way to find the truth hidden in every nook and corner. Even if it means disobeying her father, Inspecter Hewitt or any other grownup in Bishop’s Lacey, she will not stop at anything until the case is solved. Flavia has grown to be quite the detective as she never leaves any stone unturned nor does she leave any suspect on her list overlooked. She’s very determined and thorough with her work, but as an 11-year-old girl she does have the habit of letting things slip and opening up her mouth at the wrong time, which can lead to life and death matters.
As the holiday season is all about being with loved ones, Alan Bradley focuses more on the de Luce family. It’s clear to us that Flavia doesn’t feel loved by her older sisters as they continue to tease her, and often she wonders what she had done to deserve this hostile treatment. But the sisters can be compassionate to each other especially during the worst of times at Buckshaw. The family is in debt and their mansion crumbles, but within those walls the de Luce sisters are closer together. And beneath their stubborn and cold exterior, the sisters do love each other and express it in the strangest ways. Flavia understand this love-hate relationship and knows when to be sympathetic to her sisters as the family continues to suffer by their own debt. The scene where the sisters exchange gifts is the most favorite de Luce family moment I’ve seen in the series so far.
I really enjoyed this book. A murder of love, betrayal, hatred, revenge, and jealously; this was a detective mystery with all the holiday trimmings. We also revisit some older characters from previous books, including the actress Nialla and Dieter, one of Feely’s admirers obsessed over the Bronte sisters. After all, Christmas is a time for family and friends gathering around to celebrate the season, and nobody celebrates it better than Flavia with her homemade fireworks display (a chemistry experiment she conducted herself no doubt). A definite holiday favorite for mystery lovers, this is one book you want to curl up with while drinking a nice cup of hot cocoa.
My verdict: 5 hoots out of 5.