Original Publication Year: 2011
Genre(s): Historical (1950’s England), Mystery
Series: Flavia deLuce Series, Book 3
It starts with Flavia, somewhat nonchalantly, burning a gypsy’s Fete tent to the ground. It’s just another normal day in Flavia deLuce’s world. When the Gypsy in question (Fenella Faa) is found brutally beaten and then the town layabout is found hanging dead from one of Buckshaw’s fountains, 11 year old Flavia can’t resist investigating.
As with the other books in this series, the strengths are the quirky, eccentric sometimes irritating charm of Flavia and the lovely, witty writing style. The mystery hardly matters and I did not find it terribly compelling or interesting in this installment. But it provides a perfectly adequate framework for spending some time at Buckshaw with the deLuces which is the real pleasure. You don’t get to spend a lot of time as this book seemed especially brief but it could have been just because it was a lot of fun and went quickly.
Some of my favorite passages:
Flavia referring to her chemistry lab as a pleasure palace!
“I had long ago discovered that when a word or formula refused to come to mind the best thing for it was to think of something else: tigers for instance or oatmeal. Then when the fugitive word was least expecting it I would suddenly turn the full blaze of my attention back onto it catching the culprit in the beam of my mental torch before it could sneak off again into the darkness.”
“The very best people are like that. They don't entangle you like flypaper.”
“Whenever I'm with other people, part of me shrinks a little. Only when I am alone can I fully enjoy my own company.”
There is one thing that has always puzzled me or struck me as wrong. Flavia’s sisters really are quite cruel to her. Granted Flavia is decidedly odd and likely EXTREMELY annoying to have as a little sister but her offenses don’t seem to warrant the level of filial animosity directed towards her. Her sister Daphne (Daffy) is closer in age to Flavia then to their older sister Ophelia and seems to have more in common with Flavia then the vain preening Feely. But instead it’s the two older girls against the younger. I can’t decide if there is some larger cause behind it that Bradley has yet to reveal or if this is how he perceives sibling relationships. OR maybe I just had nice siblings:)
As with each book we get a little more insight into the deLuce family and it does seem like there is a bigger mystery looming (Harriet’s death) that will be (very) slowly unraveled throughout the series.