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Saturday, April 6, 2013

SPEAKING from AMONG the BONES, written by Alan Bradley. Doubleday Canada, Random House. 2013. $29.95 ages 10 and up

"You'd best run along, miss," he said. "We've work to do, and we don't need the likes of you underfoot.
Ordinarily, anyone who made such a remark to my face would go to the top of my short list for strychnine. A few grains in the victim's lunch pail - probably mixed with mustard in his Spam sandwich, which would neatly hide both the taste and the texture..."

Welcome back, Flavia de Luce. We have missed you! In her fifth investigation Flavia remains as clever, delightful and persistent as in the first four stories. Alan Bradley writes a well-crafted tale of death, intrigue and murder...all are just what the doctor ordered for the intrepid young sleuth.

It's the 500th anniversary of St. Tancred, who gave his name to the de Luce family church in Bishop's Lacey. The plan is to open his tomb. In her excitement Flavia visits the excavation site and discovers a body! Not too surprising for anyone who has been involved with Flavia's previous escapades, but surely unwelcome in their small community. Mr. Collicutt was the church organist and it is certainly a mystery that anyone would want him dead.

It appears, at least in Flavia's eyes, that Inspector Lewis is going to need assistance once again. Flavia uses all of her wily methods to collect evidence. In doing so, she makes other compelling discoveries. She collects blood samples, becomes aware of a love triangle, meets a magistrate's son who is locked away and finds a tunnel leading from the cemetery to St. Tancred's crypt. This time she has help from Adam Sowerby, an anthropologist and private detective, and Miss Tanty who loves detective novels. Each of the clues discovered helps Flavia solve the case and present her findings to the inspector.

In the midst of this sleuthing, Flavia also must contend with the knowledge that the family is in dire straits and will surely have to sell Buckshaw, their family home. It is an upsetting turn of events.  But, that is nothing compared to what her father has to tell the family as the book comes to an end. The home life of the de Luce family is terrifically important to the success and allure of these stories.

Flavia's voice remains clear and strong when describing what goes on there:

"Later, I would realize that my mind vomited up a sudden memory of snooping through Feely's unmentionables drawer in search of her diary. Having given up, I was annoyed to find that the drawer would not close completely. No matter how hard I pushed it would not budge. When I slid it forward and off the tracks, I found the diary taped to the back with strips of sticking plaster.  A lesson learned."

Alan Bradley has promised five more Flavia stories, and a made-for-television series in Britain is in the works! HUZZAH! All I really want at this very moment is to get my hands on the next story, please...

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