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Although I strive to be objective when reviewing, it’s not always easy. I knew I was going to love this book it was read. Beginning with “The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie” I’ve burned through the pages of every book in the series, relishing some a little more than others, but enjoying each enough to have pined for each new release. The previous book, “Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd,” brought Flavia home to the family’s ancient country house, Buckshaw. Reading that Flavia was once again aboard Gladys in Bishop’s Lacey, going to visit the vicar’s wife, I was satisfied that the storyline had returned to more familiar territory. In retrospect, I can see that the author signaled numerous times that I should have known better. If you read the book, you know what I mean when I say I expected and wanted a happier outcome. The end surprised me with the realization that the book wasn’t a return, but a departure. The book brought the biggest changes yet in eleven year old Flavia’s story. I was left wanting. It thrilled me to finally pick up the story again with “The Grave's a Fine and Private Place.” It opens to find Flavia and her sisters lackadaisically floating down a river, a trip planned by Dogger. With Dogger at the helm, they are attempting to leave Buckshaw and its oppressive memories behind, when (surprise!) Flavia encounters someone that’s recently deceased. The book is a marked departure from Flavia's norm of sleuthing in near isolation. At home, Daffy and Feely were most often apathetic to, and uninvolved with, Flavia in general. This time, they gladly assist Flavia, as does Dogger who participates more in this book than he ever has. Away from Bishop’s Lacey. Mr. Bradley introduces us to brand new characters with all sorts of eccentricities. As usual, his writing is witty and referential and the nuances of his characters, especially Flavia, continue to surprise me. Flavia is believably maturing faster than she is aging and the manner in which she and her sisters relate is smoothly evolving. Flavia’s the youngest, but I think the book foreshadows her assuming a more matriarchal role, especially since she’s the inheritor of Buckshaw. I very much enjoyed the book and look forward to finding out what direction Mr. Bradley takes Flavia et al. Part of me wants Flavia to stay a pre-teen forever, but I’ll be okay if this book is an indication that Flavia’s going to age. Whether he keeps writing about her as an eleven years old, or if he takes us right up to her nursing home days, I only ask that he just keep writing.
3.0 out of 5 starsDid Bradley forget the last chapter?
Reviewed in the United States on April 20, 2018
Love the series and Flavia, but the ending, or actually the non ending, demoted this from 4 stars to three ( and probably should have been 2). So many loose ends were left hanging. So many characters ( like Greta), whose storylines were just dropped. What was the significance of her poetry book? Huh? Or the circus crowd? And we are supposed to believe that Orlando was killed because of lack of funeral business? And what blackmail could be extracted from a penniless Orlando? And these are just a few of many other examples of sloppiness. Bradley's loyal readers deserve better than this. Waiting until the next book to wrap these up? Doubtful and too late.
I agree with the 3 star review below - not Flavia's most enthralling adventure, and yes, I have read them all. The plot itself is a lot more ambitious than the story can keep up with (one reason, perhaps, for the ending?), and there's several places where everything seems to stall for a chapter or so, before shaking itself awake again. There's also the business about Flavia's inheritance, which seems doomed at the start, but miraculously and inexplicably resolved - what are these "recent indications" of which we read?
It was good to see Dogger given such a prominent role... but maybe too prominent? We already knew he was a deep well of mystery and resource, but suddenly he becomes all-but Flavia's equal in terms of detection, suspicion and even chemistry. We also see less of Flavia's natural sweetness, guile and, when called for, impudence - and, where it is present, it sometimes feels forced. A large part of the charm of these books, after all, is Flavia as an unstoppable force of nature, in the same way (albeit in a very different context) as Richmal Crompton's William, or Anthony Buckeridge's Jennings and Darbyshire. Is Flavia, unlike those doughty characters, going to grow up on us? I hope not.
If you've read the others in the series, you have to read this one. It's a lot of fun, for all my misgivings, and the cast of characters is one of the most colorful of any in the series. But... it could have been a lot better.
4.0 out of 5 starsMore questions than answers in latest episode of Flavia Deluce book? Is Alan Bradley getting bored or setting up new soap opera
Reviewed in the United States on February 28, 2018
Some problems getting into this book. I have all of Alan Bradley's Flavia Deluce series and enjoy them. This one however seemed to leave lots of loose ends, unexplained plot changes, changes in personality of Dogger and poor reasons for Flavia's Aunt to wish to sell her home? The death of her mother, and father was not well referenced as to the impact on daily life and her training to be an English Empire Agent? Lots of changes in her life from other books and vague reference to her getting any older(still age 12) or changing her family involvment with her sisters who seem to suddenly become different personalities. Very confusing and it seems to be open to having Flavia and Dogger opening up a private investigative service with Dogger no longer being acute PTSD confused since the last war? In this book he demonstrates powers like Sherlock Holmes of deduction and planning?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 12, 2018
Oh, what a wonderful weekend I had. Tucked up in the house with this marvellous book. After the loss of their Father. The ever faithful Dogger takes the girls on holiday. And Flavia immediately finds a murder to solve. Which is of course, her idea of the perfect holiday. With suspicious characters and dead bodies everywhere, it does not take our heroine long to be embroiled in uncovering the guilty party. Alan Bradley's brilliant writing and characterisations keep you totally engrossed. The only complaint is I enjoy his books so much I read them in a couple of days. And then have to wait for the next in the series. I cannot wait to see what Flavia, Dogger, Feely and Daffy do next.
The ending is a muddle and the motive for murder absurd but otherwise the usual light hearted romp which you either find enchanting or a waste of printed paper. You can forgive the American spelling - color and liter - but would Flavia have used liter in 1952? - perhaps as a chemist but she certainly would not have used suspenders for braces - to hold up trousers not as she does later for correcting teeth. Also, why the odd use of Da and sicked by Hob the ragamuffin boy? Nitpicking! From the acknowledgment at the back the author hints at Flavia being at journeys end, this volume does seem to be running out of steam.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 22, 2018
I adore the Flavia de Luce series. This did not disappoint. A real page turner. My only criticism is the American spellings of some words; they do tend to jump off the page at me. The book is set in England. Just a small niggle.