Flavia de Luce is back! And solving crimes…in Canada. If you read the last Alan Bradley novel, you would know that Flavia was sent to a special Spy School for Young Ladies in Toronto, Canada. With mixed results. She’s pretty much the smartest person there, including the teachers.
The usual characters: Dogger, Daphne and Ophelia, her father, Gladys the bicycle, the villagers, aren’t part of the scenery in As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. Instead, Flavia easily outwits the inhabitants of Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy. She takes it upon herself to solve a mystery, when a charred body falls from the chimney into her room on her very first night. There is a killer amongst the young ladies of the Academy. Flavia uses her youth to disarm the authorities, and her usual courage to seek justice for the dead, no matter what the cost.
Some readers might not like Flavia leaving her home of Buckshaw for Toronto, but I found the change of setting to be refreshing. Maybe that’s my Canadian talking. But she never forgets where she came from, or her family and the people of Bishop’s Lacey. Her pangs of homesickness were my own. I did miss Dogger and Gladys, but Flavia keeps the herself busy hiding in gardens and corner stores to find the identity of the corpse and bring a killer to justice. Along the way, she learns more about her mother, the mysterious Harriet, herself a legend in the Academy. The students want to get close to Flavia if only for the reflective glory of her mother.
The students of the Academy are a group of tough but studious girls of various ages. Some are members of the Nide (Pheasant sandwiches anyone?) Why a clandestine government agency would need teenage girls is a mystery to me. Maybe we’ll find that out later. Whatever the reason, Alan Bradley doesn’t seem to have any trouble creating a cast of young female characters with their own individual personalities. I appreciated that about As the Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust.
As usual, I was ten steps behind Flavia. I can never keep up with her. Still, it’s fun to try.
About the Audio: Once again Jayne Entwistle is the voice of Flavia. I’m committed to it now. But, the singing…no.
The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse. This very, very short story places Flavia back home in Bishop’s Lacey where a young male student tasks her with solving the murder of his teacher. The corpse has been copper plated by chemical means. This wasn’t my favorite. It was way too short and I thought the reason for the crime was dopey.