Review: The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

the-dead-in-their-vaulted-arches“On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her long-lost mother, Harriet. Yet upon the train’s arrival in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear.
Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd…
Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia? Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test.
Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself.
Surrounded by family, friends, and a famous pathologist from the Home Office – and making spectacular use of Harriet’s beloved Gypsy Moth plane, Blithe Spirit – Flavia will do anything, even take to the skies, to land a killer.” – Publisher Summary

About one and a half years ago I started noticing a lot of hub-bub about some Flavia de Luce Mystery series – whatever that was about. I looked into it briefly, and discovered the books were narrated by an 11-year-old girl. Total turn-off for me; I turned my back on Alan Bradley immediately. But. I kept reading all of these rave reviews of his books, so I finally broke down and checked out the first book of the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, on my Kindle. Y’all, I fell instantly in love. In. Love. And I haven’t looked back since. I am delighted to say I have read faithfully read each book in the series, ending most recently with The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, released in January, 2014. Now, each of the novels in this series have plots strong enough to serve as stand-alone books – it’s a richer experience if you’ve read the previous books, but not at all necessary. With the exception of installment #6, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. It will serve the reader well to have the background information one can glean from reading the previous novels first.

Flavia de Luce is an eleven-year-old amateur sleuth and aspiring chemist (specializing in poisons). She is plucky, determined, brilliant, and so, so witty. To be quite frank, Flavia puts Nancy Drew to shame. Flavia lives in a dark, somewhat crumbling estate with her father, two sisters, and her father’s faithful man-servant, Dogger (love Dogger). Flavia’s mother, Harriet, disappeared when she was only one year old and is presumed dead. There is a colorful cast of characters that surround the de Luce family in their small hamlet that the reader soon grows to know and love, as well. As there is a good bit of sibling rivalry between the three de Luce sisters, this results in Flavia spending most of her time alone – during which she often stumbles onto crimes/mysteries which she then brilliantly solves by the end of each novel.

In The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches,  however, Very Big Things are happening. Flavia’s mother’s body has allegedly been found in a wintry grave and is being brought home for burial. After witnessing the death of a stranger who was trying to deliver a message to her father through her, Flavia decides to investigate and discovers a trail of clues that leads her on a journey of discovery of dark, long buried secrets of the de Luce clan – secrets that some do not want uncovered.

There is so much more I would like to tell you about this novel, but revealing any more than the basic facts will completely ruin it for you. Particularly if you are a fan of the Flavia de Luce series, the tale would be sullied for you before you even began reading. I simply ask you to please trust me when I say: You do Not. Want. To. Miss. This.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley. Buy it, read it, love it.

5 stars

Source: Random House – Bantam Dell {via NetGalley}


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