It’s almost spring, and as we start venturing out into the (hopefully) nicer weather, we start thinking of murder in the sunny countryside rather than in the stuffy dining room. What could be more perfect a read than an Alan Bradley book from his fantastic Flavia de Luce series? Orion’s own Maggy Park talks about Flavia and Alan’s amazing appeal.
It’s 1950-ish. The de Luces are landowning but poor, with the father so often distracted by the death of his wife in a mountaineering accident, and the survival of the Buckshaw estate, plus his time-consuming stamp collection, that he is unable to fully supervise Flavia, the youngest of his three daughters. Flavia has a mind as quick as mercury, a logic as sharp as glass shards and a tendency to become not only embroiled in murders but the person most likely to solve them, much to the irritation of the police.
The relationships between the De Luce family sisters are poignantly realistic, embellished with mischief, vitriol, comeuppance, jealousy and love, and they add an extra dimension to the nasty deaths that stir the local community.
The murders are more inventive than those you’d see in Midsomer Murders: unexplained death in the cucumber patch; grisly murder during Jack and the Beanstalk at the village hall; entanglement with Gypsy curses; dark deeds in the snowed-in household, including a band of itinerant actors; two corpses in a sarcophagus inside the church, and so on .
With Mrs Mullet, the custard-cooking cook, and old Dogger the handyman, it’s all so complicated, carefully constructed, unsolvable till the last – and all such fun!
The first four books in the Flavia de Luce series are available in paperback and ebook. The fifth book, Speaking From Among the Bones is out in paperback and ebook on 27 March while the hardback The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is out on 13 March.