Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley

There are two types of readers of Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce mysteries; those who love the girl, and those who just don't get her appeal. Count me in the first camp. It's hard to resist this almost twelve-year-old girl with her love of poisons, chemistry, death, and her passion for her family who she just doesn't understand. She's immature when it comes to the ways of the world, yet wise beyond her years at times. And, it's all evident in Speaking from Among the Bones, the latest book in the series.

It's the week before Easter in 1951. Flavia's sister, Feely, is going to make her debut at St. Tancred's since the organist disappeared. But, before that, a team of archaeologists are due to arrive at the church in Bishop's Lacey to dig up the bones of the saint on the five hundredth anniversary of his death. A long dead body is just up Flavia's alley. So is the dead body, that of the organist, that she finds in the church crypt.

Flavia and her trusty steed, her bicycle, Gladys, spend a great deal of time in the cemetery and church in this mystery. It's a story that brings together all of Flavia's knowledge of chemistry, her knowledge of death, and the secrets of the village of Bishop's Lacey. Bradley also introduces a new character to provide Flavia with local history, Adam Sowerby, a "Flora-archaeologist", a man with a mysterious background. Even with a new investigator and the return of Inspector Hewitt, it still takes the wisdom of a prodigy to tie all the clues together.

Little changes in Flavia's world. She's still almost twelve, living with her father and two sisters at Buckshaw, the house her mother, Harriet, inherited. However, when Harriet disappeared, Flavia's father could no longer pay the taxes and the upkeep. It's this family life that makes Flavia a sympathetic character. She longs for love in a family where everyone is living isolated lives. Her older sisters tell her horrid stories while she longs for their affection. She's left to fend for herself in her daily life, while the only person who truly understands her is her father's "man", Dogger. Flavia may be a brilliant prodigy, but she's a needy child at the same time. If she were only a child detective, she might be an impossible character to like. It's the child in her that makes her sympathetic.

Little changes in Flavia's world, as I said. But, this time, Alan Bradley has a trick or two up his sleeve as Buckshaw goes up for sale, and Flavia's father has the final word, leaving readers hanging at the end of the book. Flavia de Luce fans will definitely want to return after reading Speaking from Among the Bones.

Alan Bradley's website is

Speaking from Among the Dead by Alan Bradley. Delacorte Press. 2013. ISBN 9780385344036 (hardcover), 388p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Patricia said...


Somehow I missed this series. Flavia sounds intriguing and I'm looking forward to reading about her exploits.

Just wanted to thank you (again!) for all of the books and authors you have introduced me to over the years.

Also, glad you and the "Sweeties" are all settled in ... you truly an inspiration.


Lesa said...

What would I do without those "Sweeties", Patricia? We had a tornado watch for most of the night. I couldn't sit up worrying about it. Decided animals are supposed to know when there's something wrong with weather. Went to bed "assuming" they would let me know if something was wrong. I may have that assumption totally wrong, but at least I slept well and didn't worry about it.

You're welcome! I hope you enjoy Flavia if you get a chance to try the books. Start at the beginning!

Rosemary said...

Must admit I feel into the second camp with the first of these books, Lesa - but you make them sound so interesting that I wonder if I was just having a bad day, so I'll give them another go.

Thanks as ever :-)


Jane R said...

Read the first Flavia book several years ago. Found it to be a bit quirky but I liked it. Since then the series has dropped off my radar and it time to get back on track. Thanks for the nudge!

Anonymous said...

I adore Flavia and can't wait to read this one.

Chantelle Aimee said...

Flavia is probably the reason I shouldn't (but would want to) have children. I loved the latest, particularly seeing her mature. I really, really don't want to wait a year for the next one!

Kimberlee said...

This series is the best and Flavia is truly a remarkable character. I can't wait to read the next one.


Liz said...

Fun series. Glad a new one is out.

Lesa said...

Rosemary, some people just find Flavia too precocious. She might not be for you. I'm with Chantelle. I don't want to wait a year either with that ending!

holdenj said...

I adore Flavia and so happy to hear Gladys is out of winter storage!

Lesa said...

Yes, Gladys is on the road again, and she gets quite a workout in this book.

Rosemary said...

I think it was the non-English terms that jarred. Flavia is supposed to be living in 1950s England, but some of the words just didn't fit. Maybe I was just feeling exceptionally picky! I'll give it another try - there's not much that you recommend that I don't like, Lesa!

Miranda James said...

Loved this one! I think it's my favorite in the series so far.

Lesa said...

No promises, Rosemary! I loved this one, too, Miranda.