Saturday, June 13, 2015

Speaking from Among the Bones

Speaking from Among the Bones
by Alan Bradley
Recommended Ages: 12+

In the fifth Flavia de Luce mystery, a sleuth who is hardly twelve years old discovers her fifth corpse and, as usual, solves the crime. One would think word of her skills would have gotten around a village the size of Bishop's Lacey by now, and murderers would think twice about practicing their craft there. But when the crypt of a saint who has lain in the parish vault for five hundred years is opened, Flavia's is the first snout poked into it and, naturally, the body she sees isn't old St. Tancred but young Mr. Collicutt, the handsome young organist.

As Flavia unknots her most complicated tangle of clues yet, she also faces more private puzzles. She approaches nearer than ever before the mystery of her brooding father, her two older sisters, and the family retainer Dogger. She learns more about her long-lost mother Harriet, whom she is told she resembles both inside and out. She gets to know the vicar and his wife in a new way, and she uncovers secrets her community has kept so well she never knew they existed. But naturally, as she gets closer to the killer or killers and whatever they were after, she also gets herself in ever deeper danger.

Being an organist myself, I got a kick out of this mystery's tour of the innards of a pipe organ. There may be something in it, too, for people who dig archaeology, or who revere ecclesiastical history, or who (like Flavia) feel a fizz of excitement about chemistry, especially where poisons are concerned. They all come together in a murder mystery that includes spooky nighttime walks in a churchyard - not to mention grisly crawls down in the graves themselves. From a carved image of a saint that seems to weep blood to a mentally broken man kept calm by piped-in classical music, it's a mystery full of haunting images and moving tragedies, narrated in the voice of a precocious child who attributes human feelings to her bicycle and who boils eggs laid by her pet hen over a Bunsen burner.

These days to say that I am reading straight through a series realistically means that I may read two or three other books between each of these mysteries. Partly it's a matter of what's available at the local library, but I think the speed I am taking through this series testifies to how much I enjoy it. They have heart and brains. They have a substantial literary mouthfeel on the mental palate, yet they go down with a light cheering fizz. I have now reached the point where I am more worried about running out of these books too soon than of spending time in them. The next title in the sequence is The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse.

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