The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches


The brilliant eleven-year-old sleuth, Flavia de Luce, is back in Alan Bradley’s sixth book in this mystery series – The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. If you have not yet met this smart updated version of Nancy Drew with a chemistry set, a pet chicken, and a bicycle name Gladys, who lives in a rundown version of Downton Abbey, you really do need to find this precocious heroine from the first book – The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  Her adventures are fun; the mysteries are engaging; and the information you will glean about poison is enormous.

Although Flavia’s father and two sisters have been unlikely and mostly unwilling assistants as Flavia solves each case, her mother, Harriet, has been missing.  Harriet, who died mysteriously in a plane crash over the Himalayas when Flavia was just a baby, is finally found, and her body is shipped home.  As possible villains and World Was II heroes (including Winston Churchill) appear to attend the funeral, Flavia is determined to use her knowledge of chemistry to bring her mother back to life.

I am in the middle of reading this engaging book, and look forward to each page and more of Flavia’s wise, yet not always appropriate, comments.  The action is just heating up with possibilities of espionage and secret family history, but the word is that Flavia will be shipped off to boarding school when she turns twelve soon – and then how will she – and her readers – manage.  What will become of Gladys (her bicycle) and Esmerelda (her pet chicken).  Will she have access to her lab materials that have played an important role in solving crimes in the six book series?  Alan Bradley, don’t disappoint us.

Reviews of Other Flavia de Luce books: Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley

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I Am Half-Sick of Shadows

Flavia de Luce is back.  The most recent in the series of crime adventures solved by Alan Bradley’s  precocious British detective – I Am Half-Sick of Shadows – opens with Flavia dreaming of ice skating down the corridors of a deserted portrait gallery.  She could hose down the halls in the cold drafty East Wing of Buckshaw, the Victorian mansion where her family has lived for centuries, for her makeshift indoor ice rink.

Christmas is coming, and Flavia has created a plan with her chemistry set to prove that Santa really exists.  Her father has rented out parts of the old house to a film company to generate some income.  A blizzard traps most of the village residents overnight at Buckshaw after a special benefit performance, and  the star is found – by Flavia, of course – strangled by a length of film around her neck.  Everyone is a suspect.

If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, feel free to dive into this one anyway.  Bradley will bring you up to speed quickly, and you can enjoy the Christmas flavor while Flavia uses her wits to help Inspector Hewitt solve the crime and catch the murderer – but Father Christmas eludes her.  The mystery is fun, and Flavia is in good form again.

Read my reviews for the first two Flavia de Luce mysteries:

A Red Herring Without Mustard – An Alan Bradley Mystery

Move over Nancy Drew; Flavia de Luce is on the case.  Alan Bradley’s A Red Herring Without Mustard is another exciting adventure for the eleven year old British sleuth with a talent for chemistry and for finding dead bodies.  The third in the detective series by the seventy year old Canadian author, this one has Flavia solving an attack on an old gypsy, researching a gruesome death, and tracking the forgery of antiques.

If a mystery could be called charming, this is it.  When not weaving through her English village on her trusty bicycle, named Gladys, Flavia is cooking up chemical recipes to torture her older sisters – who reciprocate, as older sisters do, yet still keep a loving eye on their motherless youngest sibling.  Father is off with his stamp collection,  trying to balance the books to pay the bills, and selling the family antiques to keep the home fires burning.

Lots of red herrings, but Flavia keeps the plot and the possible murderers straight by conveniently rethinking the possibilities, listing all the suspects, and recapping the action a number of times throughout the book.  This still did not help me solve the murder, or keep track of all the frumpy old ladies.

Flavia may be eleven, but this is a book for adults.  If you can patiently wade through the village connections, the family friends,  the sisterly hijinks,  and the chemical concoctions, you will find a satisfying solution to the mysteries, an entertaining read, and some great Flavia- isms you might be tempted to use…

“…if rudeness was not attibutable to ignorance, it could be taken as a sure sign that one was speaking to a member of the artistocracy.”

” {the} thought-stalking…technique…”

I thought I had read Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Bradley’s first in this series, but it must have been before I started to record and review – so, if I did, I’ve forgotten it.  Not to risk picking it up and remembering halfway through, I’ve decided to play it safe and read the second in the series: The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag.

I like Flavia de Luce and look forward to another adventure – pretending I am eleven again and cycling alongside her and Gladys.