Monday, February 11, 2013

SPEAKING FROM AMONG THE BONES by Alan Bradley (2013), Doubleday Canada, 358 pages

Precocious, amusing, chemistry genius 11-year-old Flavia de Luce returns to solve yet another mystery in this most beguiling series set in 1950s rural England. Batman had Robin as his trusty sidekick, but Flavia has her bicycle who she christens Gladys “because of her happy nature” to spirit her to and from her crumbling family estate, Buckshaw. There she’s beleaguered by her girly older sisters Feely and Daffy, and finds kinship with the family’s longtime butler Dogger, who treats her like a person instead of a meddlesome little kid.

It’s the 500th anniversary of St. Tancred’s death, and the local church is planning to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody could be more intrigued about his remains than Flavia. What she does not expect, however, is to be faced with the fresh corpse of the current organist Mr. Collicutt, kitted out as he is in an eerie mask reminiscent of the most recent war. And, to complicate matters the precious “Heart of Lucifer” stone has gone missing.

It takes all of Flavia’s chemistry wiles, best behaviour, instinct for allegiance, and greatest acting for her to puzzle out the timely murder that has all of the tongues wagging throughout Bishop’s Lacey.

More satisfying than the realization of whodunit, however, is the delicious secret held back until the final sentence. A writerly trick Bradley filches from Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” And, it’s a secret that cracks the ongoing narrative wide and anticipates even more intrigue to follow for all of the de Luces.

Hop on Gladys’s handlebars and join Flavia for the dizzying ride.

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