Friday, April 3, 2015

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by C. Alan Bradley

Reviewed by Jeanne

At the end of the previous book, Flavia de Luce learned she was being sent to Canada to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy.  Her mother, Harriet, had attended the school and left quite an impression.  Flavia isn’t at all thrilled at this turn of events.  She desperately misses Buckshaw, Dogger, her father, and even her sisters.  Not even discovering that her chemistry teacher is Mrs. Bannerman—the woman acquitted of poisoning her husband and a personal hero of Flavia’s – is enough to make her want to stay.

There is one bright spot:  the first night at the school, a body tumbles out of the chimney in Flavia’s room.

The body is charred and partially mummified, wrapped in a flag. It appears to be the body of a young woman, but oddly the adults don’t seem inclined to let Flavia examine the body too closely. Could it possibly be the remains of a former student of the Academy?

This is the seventh adventure of the extremely precocious but not precious Flavia de Luce, a twelve year old with a passion for chemistry and for mysteries. I confess I had some concerns when I found Flavia would set out for the New World, but she didn’t disappoint.  Her observations are as sharp as ever, and she has a whole new cast of characters to impress and/or appall. She’s a bit more of a fish out of water here. She’s uncertain at times how to interact with her peers, but for the most part Flavia does what she always has:  assesses the situation and takes action. The adults are almost more befuddled by her than the other girls, of course, and Flavia has many opportunities to indulge her taste for theatrics.  The author even allowed some long distance interaction with the folks of Buckshaw so that readers weren’t totally bereft of the other characters we’ve come to know.

The brevity of this review is from a desire not to give too much away.  If you’re already a fan, I think you’ll enjoy this latest outing which continues the turn toward what has been called The Great Game.  If you’ve acquired a taste for pheasant, you’ll know what I mean. 

On the other hand, if you haven’t yet experienced Flavia de Luce I would strongly suggest you start with an earlier book. This is a series best read in order.

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