Alan Bradley’s series featuring Flavia de Luce is awesome. She’s an eleven year old chemist/detective with a sharp eye, sharp tongue, and an interesting family. I’d start the series with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, but if you jump in with this book you are fine. You’ll just want to backtrack and read more. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is intriguing writing at its best – the Crime Writers’ Association is correct in giving author Alan Bradley awards.
So, Flavia and family are at the train station in 1951 awaiting the arrival of her mother. Alas, Harriet de Luce, an English war heroine, arrives in a coffin via train. The whole town turns out for the event and a few stray relatives show up too. A man is pushed in front of the train and killed. Who did it and why? Also, Winston Churchill makes an appearance and offers sympathy to Flavia plus a comment about “pheasants”. So, while in mourning and confusion, young Flavia encounters more mysteries. Was her mother murdered and by whom? Flavia works in her lab, finds her mother’s will, seeks clues from an old reel of film, and must unravel old mysteries.
Her mother’s plane Blithe Spirit proves to be a pivotal turning point in the investigation. Bradley spins a good tale and mystery with plenty of red herrings and clues. It’s up to Flavia to figure things out and you can count on this way-too-wise for her age child. She resents not remembering her mother, and yet apparently looks and acts just like her. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is a rousing tale and Flavia de Luce is a worthy detective.