The ninth Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley is a mystery in itself. Is The Grave's a Fine and Private Place the end of the series, or is it the end of a storyline, and the beginning of a new one? By release date, that question may be answered, but as I write this in October, I don't know. I do know Bradley's Acknowledgments, including the thanks to his wife for her patience, and the comments about "At the end of any long journey", are curious.
Flavia's father has died, and the fate of the three de Luce sisters is in the hands of Aunt Felicity. Although Flavia inherited the family home, Buckshaw, Aunt Felicity insists it's to be sold. Ophelia is to be married off, and Daphne is to be sent to Oxford to read English. While they await their future, Dogger, the family retainer, takes the three on a trip down the river. When they're near the churchyard for St.-Mildred's-in-the-Marsh, Flavia asks Dogger to remind her of the story of Canon Whitbread, hanged after the death by poisoning of three women from his church. She idly drags her fingers through the water while talking, only to catch what she assumes is an enormous fish. Instead, her fingers have caught on the teeth and skull of a body. The body in question is Orlando Whitbread, son of Canon Whitbread.
Twelve-year-old Flavia immediately throws herself into the murder investigation, and teams up with a boy, as precocious in his own way as she is. She uses all her chemistry knowledge and learned skills to snoop, asking questions of everyone from the landlady at the inn to a retired actress who was instructing Orlando. But, once again, Flavia finds a way to put herself in danger.
Will the Flavia de Luce series go on? Will the series take the new direction indicated by the last page of the story? At one time, Bradley said Flavia was always going to remain eleven. He extended the series, made her twelve. It will be interesting to discover the future of Bradley's beloved series.
The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley. Delacorte. 2018. ISBN 9780345639991 (hardcover), 384p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.