The delightful chemistry whiz Flavia de Luce is back in Alan Bradley’s fourth mid-20th century series mystery featuring the youngest daughter of Colonel de Luce. The series has won multiple awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, the Barry Award, the Agatha Award, the Macavity Award, the Dilys Winn Award, and the Arthur Ellis Award.

It’s near Christmas at Buckshaw, the de Luce’s decaying English estate, and eleven-year-old Flavia is in her chemistry laboratory, whipping up a potion guaranteed to prove once and for all if Saint Nick is a reality by gluing him to Buckshaw’s roof. Her father’s desperate financial situation has led him to rent out his beloved estate to, of all things, a film company.

Flavia’s sisters are enthralled: the flirtatious Feeley and bookish Daphne’s excitement is contagious, and even Flavia becomes a bit smitten when film star Phyllis Wyvern appears, along with the cast and crew needed for the few scenes to be filmed there. When Wyvern’s leading man, Desmond Duncan, is added to the mix, even a few minor crew accidents don’t seem important. Wyvern and Duncan are quickly pressed into performing the classic balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet as a fundraiser for the village church roof.

Unfortunately, a huge blizzard arrives, snowing in most of the Bishop Lacey villagers who’ve arrived for the benefit. A long with the film crew, the heavy snowfall leaves everyone stranded and people sleeping in Buckshaw’s hall.

And then a body is found, strangled with a length of film in a staged scene that has Flavia and her dear Inspector Hewitt carrying on twin investigations into this classic “locked room” mystery.

Readers of the series will have learned by now that the mystery is almost secondary in the series to the inner thoughts and machinations of Flavia’s astute mind. This child prodigy in the realm of chemistry is still learning how to read people’s emotions and decipher her own. Bradley fields her struggle with childish feelings and growing pains against her supreme intelligence and sleuthing skills. Sherlock Holmes would be a fan of Flavia.

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