Published: January 14, 2014
Number of pages: 310
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: murder mystery, detective, espionage
Rating: ages 18 and up
Notes: book 6 of the Flavia de Luce series
It is the spring of 1951 and the de Luce family is waiting patiently for their mother’s arrival at the train station. As the train approaches a stranger comes up to Flavia and whispers a cryptic message into her ear, but before she can ask questions that same mysterious stranger turns up dead underneath the train. Who was the man and why did he deliver a strange message to Flavia? Another mystery to solve, Flavia puts on her thinking cap once again and begins to investigate beginning with the film reel she found in the attic of Buckshaw. As she follows the trail of clues, Flavia finds more secrets about the de Luce clan and the disappearance of her long-lost mother, Harriet.
There are 2 things you should know about this book: 1) it left me heartbroken in many parts of the story as we learn of Flavia’s long-lost mother, Harriet and how she met her tragic fate. 2) Flavia de Luce now faces a new turn of events that will change her life and the setting of the series. But there’s more to be said about the sixth book as we’re introduced to new characters, new mysteries, and deeper darker secrets.
Every Flavia de Luce novel has a mystery involving the villagers of Bishop’s Lacey, but this mystery is closer to home beginning with a cryptic message passed on to Flavia from a anonymous man to a film feel stored away in the attic of Buckshaw. A new cast of characters is introduced including Prime Minister Winston Churchill who makes an appearance when the de Luce’s wait for their mother’s return. His appearance is brief but also serves as Flavia’s first and important clue to solving the murder ahead. Among the cast are old friends including Adam Sowerby from Speaking from Among the Bones, who returns to Buckshaw with motives of his own, and Aunt Felicity who, for the first time in the series, plays an important and critical role in the plot.
I feel like our adolescent detective has grown over the series from the precocious and devilishly charming girl to a mature and insightful pre-teen who’s consciously aware of her family’s behavior and attitudes during this tragic moment. As the entire story is written in first person, we are fully aware of Flavia’s feelings of grief and love for her family and friends, and her trail of thoughts as she investigates the murder and her mother’s disappearance. I love how Alan Bradley has written a plot with layers of twists and turns but still make it easy to follow while adding humorous bits in all the right places. A wonderfully sad book that had me grieving in the right parts of the story, but left me feeling hopeful as Flavia begins a journey to a new chapter in her life.
This book is different from the previous episodes as murders turn more sinister and family secrets are exposed. From books 1 to 5 we are given hints about Harriet and how she died, but not why she died while mountaineering in Tibet. This book answers those questions giving us closure, but just as we figure out the mystery new questions are asked about the de Luce clan as their history is revealed. Most importantly there are hints as to what will become of our Flavia as she departs Bishop’s Lacey and her family for the first time.
I recently learned that there are 10 books in the series so I can’t wait what Alan Bradley has in store for our detective. This was definitely an enjoyable read and I look forward to following Flavia’s adventures. If you haven’t already I recommend that you start reading the series beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie as there are references to Harriet and the family that must be understood before reading the sixth book.
My verdict: 5 hoots out of 5.