I've been a huge fan of Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce cozy mysteries since I heard about his first book at BEA years ago.
Set in the 1950s countryside with the aristocratic de Luce family in danger of losing their longtime home and estate of Buckshaw, it is hard not to become fond of the genius and Chemistry whiz that is Flavia de Luce. Flavia's nearly twelve years old in this, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, the 5th book in the series. Flavia's the third and youngest daughter of Harriet and Colonel de Luce and has been raised and educated at home by a series of tutors and governesses, watched over by her war damaged father, two beautiful and preoccupied older sisters, the caring staff, and Dodger - her close friend and her father's man during WWII.
Buckshaw has been owned and held by the de Luce family estate since William the Conqueror, but the unexpected disappearance of Flavia's mother, Harriet de Luce, has brought with it crippling estate taxes. It becomes apparent that Colonel de Luce is not particularly financially savvy and although the earlier novels show his and Dodger's talents, it is likely that Buckshaw will eventually be sold to cover the family's tax bill and expenses.
Buckshaw itself is an amazing place which we learn about through young Flavia's eyes. Flavia'd discovered a state of the art and well stocked chemistry lab that was initially organized by Uncle Tarquin. Through her insatiable curiosity, burgeoning chemistry skills and the invaluable handwritten journals that Tarquin has compiled, Flavia clearly shows hereof to be on par with the best chemists of her day. It's these skills, her powers of deduction and observation that make this young heroine one of the best sleuths of her day and both an invaluable aid and bit of a pest to the inspectors of her area and of Scotland Yard.
Unlike the earlier novels, this particular installment of the de Luce mysteries doesn't focus on a mysterious death of a stranger. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches deals more with the mystery of Harriet de Luce and her disappearance.
For those who haven't read any of the Flavia de Luce novels, you have to read the books in order, but I highly recommend this series!
About the Author:
Alan Bradley is the internationally bestselling author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. His first Flavia de Luce novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, the Dilys Winn Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Agatha Award, the Macavity Award, and the Barry Award, and was nominated for the Anthony Award. His other Flavia de Luce novels are The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, A Red Herring Without Mustard, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, and Speaking from Among the Bones.