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Flavia de Luce is a delightful concoction of chemistry and murder

By Kathleen Duncan
Jan. 29, 2014 at 3:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 28, 2014 at 7:29 p.m.


Flavia de Luce is a wily 11-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a knack for finding bodies. She often stumbles upon fresh corpses, which ensnare her in their murders, until they are solved.

Flavia lives with her two sisters and father at Buckshaw, a crumbling mansion passed down through her mother's family in England. Flavia, when not solving murders, exists for chemistry. She is as likely to be up all hours cooking up poisons in her laboratory - if she isn't out exploring on her bicycle, Gladys.

Her mother, Harriet, has been missing as long as Flavia can remember (and for the last five books.) Her absence is the reason Flavia's father is heartbroken and reserved and why their home is slowly deteriorating around them.

Until now.

In "The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches" by Alan Bradley, the sixth installment of the series, Flavia's adventures are turned on their ear. Harriet is finally coming home.

It is while Flavia is waiting upon the train platform with her family for Harriet to arrive that a person is pushed beneath the wheels of the train. He dies just moments after he whispers a cryptic warning in Flavia's ear.

The entire Flavia de Luce series is a rollicking good time. Every book is worth buying and then hiding within the nearest broom closet until you have finished.

They're humorous, clever and lighthearted mysteries that will surprise you as often as they make you smile.

Though "The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches" is a bit more serious than the preceding novels, Flavia is still as witty, mischievous and exuberant as ever. She gets into plenty of scrapes despite the unusually dire circumstances. She even uncovers the biggest secret that the series has built toward thus far.

Flavia may be 11 years old, but these books can be enjoyed by all ages. Unfortunately, some books in the young adult genre are written for children; these thankfully, are not. These are written for everyone.

I know as many wizened adults as young adults that love Flavia's adventures and follow her escapades with barely restrained glee.

If you'd like to start at the beginning (as I suggest you do), "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" is the first delightful caper you can embark upon with Flavia and her trusty steed Gladys.

Find a nice broom closet, some comfortable blankets and a kind soul to feed you periodically, and you will work your way to "The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches" in no time.

You'll be glad you did because I can guarantee you these books won't leave you hanging in a bad way.

Though I can't promise the same for all of their characters.

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