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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, written by Alan Bradley. Doubleday Canada, Random House. 2014. $29.95 ages 10 and up

"He brightened at once. "Can you keep a secret?" he asked.
I nearly laughed in his face. Of all the billions of people who have ever trod the face of planet Earth, none of them - not a single blessed one! - has ever been as much a master of the zipped lip as Flavia de Luce. I crossed my heart and my lips and showed him the two-fingered bunny-ear sign."
When we left Flavia and the de Luce family at the end of the fifth book in this wonderful series, Speaking from Among the Bones, they were in shock. Then, we were left to wait until the sixth volume of the Flavia chronicles (as I have to come to call them) was written and published. Luckily, we didn't have to wait too long. Thanks to you, Mr. Bradley!

There are some surprises. Flavia is almost twelve now, and has experienced a year that would knock the wind out of most people. Flavia is definitively NOT most people. She is a force to be reckoned with by almost every single person and event encountered. Some things remain unchanged. Her father is still distant. Her older sisters are still annoying. But, facing the truth of the revelation at the end of the last book sets the family on a new, mysterious and sometimes treacherous course.

Off they go to meet the train that is carrying her mother home. Who is the young man who tries to get a message to Flavia, and ends up dead on the train tracks? Why is Winston Churchill at the station? Why does he have a message for Flavia? Does it have something to do with her parents and their travels during WWII? We are left to is the case with all of Flavia's mysterious adventures.  
This book is not so much about murder, as the others have been, as it is about a story of the de Luce family itself. Their family home will soon be theirs no longer. When her mother is returned to the family, they are left to deal with the many repercussions of her death and to wonder if it was an accident in the mountains that actually caused it.
I so love the characters that Alan Bradley has created for this series of books. In this one he adds a number of quirky and authentic  characters whose presence is absolutely necessary to solving this new mystery. We meet Tristam Tallis, who now owns Flavia's mother's plane, Blithe Spirit. What does he know? The funeral brings a rarely seen cousin into the family fold. Lena de Luce and her daughter Undine add a touch of humor, and some drama. Undine is very bright, outspoken and an immediate thorn in Flavia's side. Their encounters are worth rereading. Aunt Felicity and Dogger play an ever-increasing role in Flavia's attempts to make sense of everything that is happening around her.

Flavia holds her place as one of my very favorite characters from all of my reading. She is an astute and capable narrator. Her charm, wit and intelligence continue to strengthen my admiration...and she is so funny! She loves a challenge and does not back down from any new development. She is growing up, and I am keen to see what the future has in store for her. Emotional and touching, this is a book that changes what we might expect in the final four books planned for her. 

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