As the novel opens, Flavia Sabina de Luce schemes revenge against her 2 older sisters, Ophelia (17) and Daphne (13) who have locked her inside a closet in Buckshaw, the family’s country manor home located in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey. Flavia may have braces and pigtails like a typical 11-year-old girl, but she is also a brilliant amateur chemist with a specialty in poisons and a fully equipped, personal laboratory on the top floor of her home. With her scientific notebook at-the-ready, she steals her oldest sister’s lipstick, adds poison ivy extract, and then waits, eagerly anticipating changes in Ophelia’s complexion. Flavia is especially jealous of her oldest sister because at 17, she is the only one of the 3 girls with memories of their mother, Harriet, a free spirit who disappeared on a mountaineering adventure in Tibet 10 years earlier and is presumed dead. Harriet’s disappearance devastated their father, Colonel Haviland “Jacko” de Luce, a philatelist and former amateur illusionist who spends most of his time poring over his stamp collection. The family shares their home with loyal retainer Arthur Wellesley Dogger, who once saved Colonel de Luce’s life during the war and now works as Buckshaw’s gardener, suffering frequent bouts of memory loss and hallucinations due to post-traumatic stress disorder from his time as a prisoner of war.
Mysterious events begin to occur when Mrs. Mullet, Buckshaw’s housekeeper and cook, discovers a dead jack snipe on the porch with a Penny Black stamp pierced through its beak. Then, Flavia and Dogger overhear a heated argument between Colonel de Luce and a red-headed stranger who shortly turns up dead in the family cucumber patch. When Colonel de Luce is arrested for the crime, Flavia takes to her bicycle, Gladys, and begins an investigation in the village of Bishop’s Lacey, interviewing suspects, gathering clues, and compiling research at the library, always staying ahead of Inspector Hewitt and the police department. As she single-handedly solves the crime, she uncovers the truth behind a 20-year old apparent suicide at Colonel de Luce’s alma mater, Greyminster. Both the suicide victim, housemaster and Latin scholar Grenville Twining, and the red-headed stranger in the cucumber patch, Horace “Bony” Bonepenny, uttered “Vale” as a last word. The trail connecting their deaths also includes political intrigue, rare Ulster Avenger stamps, sleight of hand, theft, blackmail, and murder. ~source:wikepedia
I absolutely adored this book! Having seen this series all over blogdom I wasn’t sure with the protagonist being a kid. But Bradley is a master at his characterization of this wonderful little girl! She is precocious, but never comes across as arrogant or miss smartypants. You fall in love with her. Wish you could be a little kid again and be best friends with her. I loved all the characters, especially Dogger.
I read or rather listened to the audio version on CD in my car. The narrator was Jayne Entwistle and she is Flavia! She does ever so slight voice inflections for different characters that are just enough to recognize the person speaking but not over the top so it ruins the reading. That is one of my pet peeves with audio books. Women readers trying to have a male voice when they read a male part. Ruins the whole thing for me. Anyway, I’ve decided to do the whole series on audio. It is so vivid and seems to come alive with this narrator. I’ve already got book two in my CD player. And I’m driving to my son’s in Maryland for Christmas so there’s 4 hrs each way uninterrupted reading! I better check out book 3 before I go!
There’s a wonderful website for Flavia fans. Check it out and join the fan club maybe:0 There’s a Flavia card game to download too. I can’t wait until my Grandkids a just a little bit older and get them started on these books!
Mystery lovers you need to give this a go if you haven’t already!