The BUZZ: This main character has her own fan club, but you’ve likely never heard of her. Bradley has taken an innovative approach to detective fiction, and this is the 6th book in the award-winning series.
The GIST: Flavia de Luce is an 11-year-old genius living in an old English pile with her obnoxious older sisters and her absentminded but darling father. With the help of an abandoned chemistry lab in the west wing of the manse, Flavia is able to solve a few mysteries in her tiny town. There’s some thievery and a murder or two, but perhaps the greatest mystery is the de Luce family itself. Flavia does finally sort out the family secrets in this latest book; what she discovers would be tough to handle for most adults. Flavia is nobody’s fool, and she is heroine for the ages.
The WRITING: Clever. When I recommend these books, peoples’ eyes tend to glaze over. Eleven-years-old?, they say. Can’t possibly be more than a children’s book. Alan Bradley’s books are not exactly dark, but they’re not for kids either. Flavia is precocious enough to understand an adult world, and Bradley handles this perspective deftly. Through Flavia, he is having us hold a mirror to ourselves and the good and evil we adults do. But just when we might get a bit defensive, he makes it fun. Flavia knows what she doesn’t know, and Bradley takes the reader on a wild ride to find answers. The mysteries are solved in due time, once all the clues are revealed, and not a moment before.
BUY or BORROW?: Buy. Them. All. These are a reader’s candy. Perfect to tuck into on a cold, rainy night with a cup of tea. The first book in the series is entitled The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Fans will be happy to hear that director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) has optioned the books for a 2015 TV series.
Seen from the air, the male mind must look rather like the canals of Europe, with ideas being towed along well-worn towpaths by heavy-footed dray horses. There is never any doubt that they will, despite wind and weather, reach their destinations by following a simple series of connected lines.
But the female mind, even in my limited experience, seems more of a vast and teeming swamp, but a swamp that knows in an instant whenever a stranger–even miles away–has so much as dipped a single toe into her waters. People who talk about this phenomenon, most of whom know nothing whatsoever about it, call it “woman’s intuition.”