Auntie M just returned from ten days taking care of the four Grands in Minnesota. It was the perfect time of year to be there–no ice or snow–and she got in a bit of reading.
Two more for you to inhale are by Canadian Alan Bradley.
Bradley won the Debut Dagger Award of the Crimewriter’s Association for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, featuring the precocious and resourceful eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce.
Set in 1950 in rural England, Flavia is as unusual a protagonist as one could find. Brilliant at chemistry, her passion being poisons, Flavia develops a genius for solving crimes, especially murders. The youngest sister of three, older sisters Ophelia and Daphne thrive on pranks (and worse) to hurt Flavia’s feelings. Her widowed father spends his days involved with his precious stamp collection, leaving Flavia plenty of time to pursue her chemistry studies and to solve mysteries.
The family cook, Mrs. Mullet, and a butler/handyman/gardener named Dogger complete the family cast. There are the villagers of Bishop’s Lacey, too, the small town nearest to Buckshaw, the de Luce mansion.
In book one, Flavia is intrigued when a dead bird with a stamp through its beak is found on Buckshaw’s doorstep. Only hours later, Flavia stumbles across a man lying in the kitchen cucumber patch, and catches his dying words. The girl is appalled and delighted at once. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”
Bradley is spot on with the period notes and social strata he describes. Flavia’s voice remains youthful and intelligent but oddly endearing, as she rattles around the huge house amusing herself. When she meets Inspector Hewitt and his two sergeant’s, he is acutely aware he is in the company of someone unusual.
I gobbled this book up quickly because I knew the second installment was waiting for me in my suitcase (yes, I know, buy a Kindle or Nook for travel). Would Bradley capture me again? Would Flavia’s voice continue to hook me? The answer is a resounding yes to both questions.
The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag finds Flavia having to untangle a new and a years-old murder. Riding her trusty bicycle,Gladys, around the area, Flavia introduces us to a madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood, a catatonic mother in a dovecote, and a German soldier obsessed with the Bronte sisters. Introduce a puppeteer, a brush with electricity, and a long-dead boy, and you’ve got the makings of another book I couldn’t put down.
Flavia has an added asset that Inspector Hewitt lacks: a quiet child is often overlooked as adults gossip and talk. In this vein Flavia is able to obtain needed information to help solve the murders.
Each of these books are reads that will have you wanting more of the irrepressible Flavia de Luce. Auntie M can’t wait for the next one!