Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery

Flavia de Luce, the heroine of this mystery, is an 11 year old chemistry genius who lives at Buckshaw in the village of Bishop's Lacey.  She stumbles upon a dying man in her family garden and races about the village on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, searching for the answers to the various riddles posed by the death soon deemed a murder.  Most importantly, did her father do it?  What did the dead bird on the doorstep mean?  What about all those postage stamps?

I don't generally enjoy mysteries.  They are too formulaic to hold my attention.  The reader knows that every interaction, every character, every chance meeting is somehow crucial to the plot and in many cases the reader figures it out before the sleuth does.  Not to mention that a mystery, by its very nature, is totally plot driven and the plot often feels contrived.  I think I got my cynicism about mysteries from reading every Nancy Drew book ever published when I was about Flavia's age.

So as far as mysteries go this one wasn't bad and a satisfying end to Fiction February.  Flavia is a memorable and vividly drawn detective: a smart, resourceful, strong girl.  Bishop's Lacey and its denizens are the perfect English town for a mystery and the whole de Luce family is both compelling and sweet.  All set me up for a really enjoyable story--even if it was a conventional mystery.  I found myself really drawn into the plot...especially the history of Flavia's father and his passion for stamp collecting.  Who knew stamps could be so interesting?

This novel is Alan Bradley's first book and hey, guess what? He is 71 years old!  I guess there is still hope that I will get my novel done after all.  We haven't heard the last of Flavia de Luce either.  There are a couple more mysteries in the work with her as the star.

So how about you, dear reader,  can you recommend a mystery?

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