Books I am reading

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Flavia de Luce

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches: A Flavia de Luce Novel

This is the 6th book in the Flavia de Luce series. Flavia is an 11 year old, eccentric, genius chemist. She lives with her father and two sisters in the family estate owned by her mother, Harriet, who disappeared in Tibet 10 years earlier, while on a mission draped in mystery.
This book opens as Harriet's remains are returned to the crumbling estate. Her body was found frozen in the Himalayas in Tibet. And now the government is bring her home, including Winston Churchill. Flavia cannot imagine what her mother had been doing when she died that would warrant the former prime minister to be involved.
As the family is moving from the train platform to the waiting limo, a tall stranger falls from the platform and is crushed by a train. As Flavia reaches his body, he whispers a strange message that makes no sense to her. "The Gamekeeper is in danger."
Flavia retreats to her beloved uncle's chemistry lab, that has been her refuge as far back as she can remember. She is initially focused on finding a way to bring her mother back to life. Flavia has finagled to stand vigil with her mother in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep so that she can be alone to try her idea for reviving Harriet. In preparation she opens the coffin, and sees her mother for the first time in her memory. She reaches inside her mother's frozen coat and discovers an oilcloth wallet containing her will. Then she hears a commotion in the hallway outside her mother's room. She hides her items under the catafalque holding her mother, and sneaks out through the door into her father's bedroom.  Agents from the Home Office take over the vigil, and Flavia can no longer gain access to her mother's body.
To go any further with the plot outline would ruin the story for those who haven't yet read the book.
I am a huge Flavia de Luce fan and hope others will enjoy these well written, creative and often funny adventures of Flavia. But The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is a huge departure from the previous 5 books. This story is much darker with excruciating sadness. This is not the Flavia without a care in the world trying to find useful ways to exercise her genius curiosity. This book explains many family secrets only hinted at in previous books. It ties up loose ends. It feels as if it is the end of an era, and possibly the end of the series. I sincerely hope that Mr. Bradley will continue the series with new adventures as Flavia grows and matures. But if he doesn't, it has been a grand journey!
Though this book can probably stand alone, the richness of the characters will be lost if you haven't read the series. Start at the beginning and work up to this 6th installment. For those who have read the earlier books, wild horses won't keep them away from this book.