As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

December 24, 2011


Great literary crime detectives aren’t always born; they’re sometimes discovered, blindfolded and tied up in a dark closet by their nasty older sisters. Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce’s bitter home life and vicious sibling war inspires her solitary diversions and “strange talents” tinkering with the chemistry set in the laboratory of their inherited Victorian house, plotting sleuth-like vengeance on Ophelia (17) and Daphne (13), and delving into the forbidden past of her taciturn, widowed father, Colonel de Luce. It comes as no surprise, then, that the material for her next scientific investigation will be the mysterious corpse that she uncovers in the cucumber patch. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Kammy T

I love precocious, female protagonists.  I don't care if their expertise and eloquence are over the top, I like them a lot.  Flavia de Luce fits right in with my favorites! She is 11, growing up in England in a sprawling mansion, and loves chemistry. She has discovered a well-stocked laboratory from an ancient uncle, and has made it her "sanctum sanctorum." Throughout the book she interprets and relates to happenings around here in terms of chemistry.

Flavia has two older sisters, one a book worm and the other lovesick. The interaction between them is entertaining. Her mother tragically died, and her father, an avid stamp collector, is reclusive and disconnected from his daughters. The mystery begins when a dead bird is found on the back doorstep with a postage stamp stuck on its beak. (See cover illustration.) Next Flavia discovers a body in the cucumber patch. Being a child she is questioned, but not let in on much. So she begins an investigation of her own. She takes off on her bike, named Gladys of course, and solves the mystery.

The story is sometimes out there, and maybe not entirely realistic. But it is a great mystery, has fun dialouge, endearing characters, and it is nicely resolved. I liked reading it.  My 11-year-old son also tore through it too, and was excited to discuss it with me along the way. It is murder mystery, and I recommend it!

Here are some of Flavia's great lines:

About reading her first chemistry book, "Within moments it had taught me that the word iodine comes from the word meaning "violet," and that the name bromine was derived from a Greek word meaning "a stench." These were the sorts of things I needed to know!"

When she found the town library was closed, "It occurred to me that Heaven must be a place where the library is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. No...eight days a week."

"Wrapped up in the music, I threw myself into an overstuffed chair and let my legs dangle over the arm, the position in which Nature intended music to be listened to, and for the first time in days I felt the muscles in my neck relaxing."

This is gross, but she's describing the linoleum floor in a retirement house. "Whenever I stepped on one of its pustulent brown blisters, the stuff let off a nasty hiss and I made a mental note to find out if color can cause nausea."

I can totally relate to her explanation of how to solve a problem or remember something. "I could feel an answer to the question nibbling at the hook I'd lowered into my subconscious. Don't look straight at it, I thought, think of something else--or at least pretend to."

I've been unsuccessful remembering where I saw this recommended, or who talked to me about it! I thought I was the last one to read it, but it turns out no one I've talked to has read it. So if you have...tell me what you thought!

Market: Middle grade/young adult
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: Death, it's a murder mystery

Book formats:


MKHutchins said...

I'm not usually a big reader of mysteries, but this sounds like a lot of fun!

Kelly said...

This sounds SO good!! I want, I want, I want! I'm pretty sure I will be going out to buy this for my road trip (and then quickly devouring the others in the series). Thanks for the great review!

Pinky Surine said...

I'm with you, Kammy... I absolutely loved this book! I was cheering for Flavia, who came across to me as a Pippi Longstocking with maturity. I loved her outlook on life, and if her words and attitude seemed mature for her age, you can only surmise that it was a defense mechanism. Love love love Flavia!

Emily said...

Thanks for this review! I read it and really enjoyed it. I thought the narrator was very charming and the plot was so interesting and actually quite educational.