Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Favorite Flavia?

Oh Flower our Flavia is back!

Is that not lovely news? The first Flavia de Luce mystery, The Sweetness at The Bottom of the Pie was such a charm-fest. It was entertainment from end to end. Agatha Christie meets Are You There God? It's me, Madame Currie.

So the new Flavia mystery? It's called The String That Holds The Hangman's Bag. Another wordy, curious title. It's almost a paragraph on it's own. Interesting and you know there is a clue in there somewhere. Such a wonderful change from the usual three word mystery titles. Things like: The Vengeful Village, The Suicide Scones, Death for Debutantes, The Gardener's Grave, The Vicar's Victim, The Maiden's Murder, When Widows Weep or Next Stop... Death

This time around Flavia meets the teary eyed wife of Great Britian's premiere TV puppeteer. How they ended up in Bishop's Lacey and who ends up dead and why there's a Bronte obsessed German prisoner of war roaming around and more, more and more mysteries will all be taken care of for us by Flavia. Just relax and enjoy. Maybe have yourself a few of Flavia's favorite horehound candies. That's certainly what Inspector Hewitt should do given that Flavia is ahead of him at every turn even while she takes time to revenge herself on her tormenting sisters, Ophelia and Daphne. The older sisters try and convince Flavia that she is a foundling which is exactly what myself and my brothers and sisters did to our brother V. His birth certificate was a different color than the rest of ours so it seemed the natural thing to do.

One of the added treats of this new book is the fleshing out of the local village, Bishop's Lacey. Author
Alan Bradley introduces more of the eccentric and barely two steps ahead of Victorian times citizens. The population of Sweetness was quite small and though Hangman's is larger Bradley has maintained the feeling of intimacy even while giving us the start of a community. Very exciting. There is even a map!

As usual I see no point in going into the plot especially since this is a mystery. Eleven year old chemistry genius and sleuth Flavia is the star of this show and everything else including plot is secondary but still engaging. Flavia is one of the most original and likable characters I have seen in years. You and I, Flower, love her and so does fourteen year old niece O. Yet despite Flavia's and O's ages and the Nancy Drew trim size of the book I never feel as though I am reading a trussed up YA novel. That says a lot about Bradley's skills I think. To write something as well worn as a cozy mystery and have it appeal to such a wide age range (with no wizards or vampires in sight) without dumbing it down is incredibly uncommon.

I want at least 30 more of these fresh faced old school mysteries please. And by the way? On the Bradley's website the next 4 Flavia mysteries are listed! They are: Seeds of Antiquity, A Red Herring Without Mustard, Death in Camera and The Nasty Light of Day, I would like to wiggle my nose and have them all out tomorrow, but I'll pull my patience out of my pocket and wait instead.


P.S. The packaging? It's hardcover with a dust jacket. The illustration, the color choices, the typeface is all perfect but I was disappointed that the designers went with a jacket and no imprint of the cover on the book itself as they had done with Sweetness. The design of the first book added a lot to the post war feel of the book in my opinion. Oh well obviously those things did not effect my being mad about the book, right?

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