Monday, January 13, 2014

Speaking from Among the Bones: Alan Bradley

It took a lot of convincing to get me to start reading the Flavia de Luce series, which features an 11-year-old heroine. I was sure that the story and the heroine would be too cutesy, not my type of thing.

The first incentive was seeing lots of good reviews, but especially this review for the first book in the series at Stainless Steel Droppings. The next encouragement was finding a nice copy of the second book in the series that featured a skeleton on the cover at my favorite book sale. But even then, I was still on the fence. Then I saw that the author is Canadian and I was looking for Canadian authors, so that cinched it. I found a copy of the first book in the series and read it.
 
And now I would not miss an entry in this series. So why do I still have a hard time defining what it is I like about the series?
 
Mainly I just love reading about Flavia and her adventures. She is so daring and so adventurous, entirely different from myself. The stories as told through her brilliant but still childish mind are very well done and very entertaining. Even though Flavia has not aged even a year in the five books I have read so far, and the occurrence of five murders in one small town is totally unrealistic, it doesn't phase this reader.

The series is set in post-War England, in a small town, and that background makes the stories that much more interesting. There is always some obscure information thrown in. Such as descriptions of poisons, and chemical interactions, and the parts of a church organ. Flavia's main interest (other than crime solving) is chemistry, and she is always willing to share that information with the reader.
 
One thing I do not like in mysteries is cliffhangers. And this book does have a doozy of a cliffhanger. Fortunately I knew that in advance and deliberately held off reading this book until close to publication time for the sixth one.

To close this review I will include a favorite quote:
   The best thing for soothing a disappointed mind is oxygen. A couple of deep inhalations of the old “O” rejuvenates every cell in the body. I suppose I could have gone upstairs to my laboratory for a bit of the bottled stuff, but to me, that would have been cheating. There is nothing like oxygen in its natural form—oxygen which has been naturally produced in a forest or a greenhouse, where many plants, by the process of photosynthesis, are absorbing the poisonous carbon dioxide which we breathe out, and giving us oxygen in exchange.
   I had once remarked to Feely that, because of the oxygen, breathing fresh air was like breathing God, but she had slapped my face and told me I was being blasphemous.
My reviews for the first four books in the series:
 The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
 The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
 A Red Herring Without Mustard
 I Am Half-Sick of Shadows

20 comments:

  1. This is my favorite of the series so far. The focus is on Flavia as sleuth in this one with minimal family subplots intruding. The absorbing mystery has some very clever plotting that reminded me of the oldies I love so much. Plus, all the Gothic elements and the multiple visits to the creepy crypt appealed to me. That there were two rival detectives in this book was also a bonus. This far surpassed the second book which for a long time had been my favorite for the excellent mystery plot.

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    1. John, I agree with all you say. I especially liked the addition of Adam Sowerby, the "flora-archaeologist". This is my favorite also.

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  2. I've a lot to look forward to, assuming I enjoy the first which I'm holding back on to see if I can do "Canada" in the second half of the year.
    Wasn't sure an 11 year old would be my thing, and I'm still not totally convinced, but hey an open mind and all that!

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    1. Col, I hope you do read it and I hope you like it. It is worth a try anyway.

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  3. I've got a couple of these on the shelf but have so far resisted - OK, shall take the plunge in 2014, I swear!

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    1. In 2014, you should take one off the shelf and try it. I am reading The Danger Within by Michael Gilbert right now, and loving it.

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  4. Tracy, the eleven year-old crime solver takes me back to the days of Nancy Drew who was probably milder compared to Flavia. I'd like to read this series.

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    1. Prashant, I think you would like this series. It is not for everyone, but a lot of bloggers like it.

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  5. Tracy I'm on the third book now and adore Flavia! She brings out the kid in us while offering an excellent puzzle.

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    1. Peggy, reading about Flavia is almost addictive. A lot of fun.

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  6. I really need to read this series! Thanks for the incentive, Tracy. I need to go find my copies.

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    1. Keishon, I look forward to your review when you read one. Since you already have copies of some of them, I definitely recommend the series.

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  7. Like you I also hesitated quite a while before taking the plunge. Took the first book home from the library a couple of times before actually reading the thing. Now I wouldn't miss a book if you paid me. Sadly, I've heard there are only going to be six and I've read five already.

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    1. Cath, I heard the same thing (about only 6 books). It is a wonderful series, isn't it?

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  8. TracyK: I want to read the series. The author was a resident of Saskatchewan for a long time. Yet the TBR piles loom so high already. Maybe later this year.

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    1. Bill, I know exactly what you mean about the TBR piles. When you do get to this series, I think you will like it.

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  9. Tracy - Oh, I think this is a great series. And I think you hit it exactly right in saying that this is not at all a 'cutesy' series. I like Flavia de Luce's character very much, and Bradley does a great job evoking the village and the era. I'm glad you liked this one.

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    1. Margot, Flavia is a great character, isn't she?

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  10. Hmmm - I read one of these - the first one - and although it was OK, I didn't feel at all inclined to read any further. Perhaps I was having an off day, and should try another one - this is quite the persuasive collection of review and comments!

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    1. Moira, It does surprise me that such a wide variety of readers enjoy the books. Each book I read, I think it cannot be as good as the last one. I liked the first one, but doubted the author could keep it up to my satisfaction. But I have been consistently entertained by all of them. (I just finished the 6th one; it verges to a bit more serious, in some ways.)

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