I have enjoyed all six previous entries in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley. I never expected to like a series about an eleven-year-old girl who investigates crimes, but I was won over by the first book. Each book has been entertaining and fun. The books are set in post World War II Britain, in the village of Bishop's Lacey. Flavia is the youngest daughter (around 11 years old) in the de Luce family; she lives with her two sisters and their father in a very old country house that requires a lot of upkeep. Her mother died when she was young. Each member of the family is unique, and none of them communicate their feelings very well.
This book did keep me entertained, but it was not up to the standard of earlier books. I thought I was going to like the move to a new setting; I like to read books set in Canada and the author is Canadian, but the Canadian setting did not work as well for me. There were descriptions of Toronto, but most of the book is set in the very strange Female Academy. That institution and its inhabitants strained my ability to suspend disbelief even more than earlier books. In previous books there have always been interesting secondary characters, even the ones that show up for only one book. There was no depth to any new character in this story.The plot seemed disjointed. The mystery is solved but the many questions Flavia has about her new school (a secret society, who can she trust, what is she actually there to learn?) are left unresolved.
Alan Bradley's books about Flavia have never failed to pull me in and keep me interested and entertained. I credit Bradley's superb storytelling ability for that. Flavia is a wonderful character. Where this book was lacking was in plot and characterization and the storytelling could not overcome that.
I would like to note that most reviews of this book were very positive. I refer to some below. Some reviews point out the issues I had but did not consider them serious drawbacks. So if you like this series, don't let this review deter you. And if you want to try it, I suggest starting with an earlier stronger book. I would read them in order, but many readers of the series say that each can stand alone.
See other reviews at Bookloons, Peggy Ann's Post, the Montreal Gazette, Publisher's Weekly.
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2015
Length: 384 pages
Setting: Toronto, Canada
Genre: Historical mystery
Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley.