Thursday, September 5, 2013

Book Review: SPEAKING FROM AMONG THE BONES by Alan Bradley






Coming soon:


As you can see, the titles of award-winning author Alan Bradley's 'Flavia' books are as intriguing, well, almost as intriguing as his main character: an eleven (or possibly twelve) year old prodigy-sleuth with the unlikely name of Flavia de Luce.

I've read them all (except for the last title due out soon, if not already) and never tire of recommending this series set in 1950's England. The English countryside (in and out of fiction) is endlessly fascinating to me so that might have something to do with my affection for these books. But if the writing weren't so top notch and I didn't like Flavia so much, nothing would induce me to keep reading. You know how merciless I can be.

Canadian author Alan Bradley is able somehow to write from the point of view of a precocious eleven year old girl, that in itself is a kind of miracle and a very special talent. But this is no ordinary 'child'. First of all, Flavia is brilliant, second of all she has a penchant for poisons and messing about in an old family laboratory on the top floor of Buckshaw, her family's large ramshackle house. Third of all, she is very adept at solving crimes which occasionally occur in the small village of Bishop's Lacey - a seeming hotbed of murder and nasty doings.

But no matter what mysteries happen around her, Flavia remains a young naive girl, wise in certain ways, but often bewildered by grown-up actions. She is never someone pretending to childhood - her voice is true. She IS a child in many of her thoughts, comments and occasionally her conclusions - but a child who just happens to be a science prodigy. Much to the chagrin of the local constabulary.

It is the 500th Anniversary of the death of Saint Tancred whose bones are buried in a vault within the local village church. Flavia, curious as ever, is anxious not to miss the planned excavation of the saint's bones. Along with her faithful bicycle Gladys, mute witness to all her adventures, Flavia is determined to watch the midnight doings down at the church - a determined Flavia is a small force of nature.

Sneaking around at night is a common enough occurrence for our heroine since she sleeps in a separate wing of the house (near her handy chemistry lab 'inherited' from a great uncle) away from her two older sisters (of whom the less said, the better) and her distracted father, a sad widower who seems only interested in his stamp collection. As a result of her lonely family life in a decaying pile of bricks about to be foreclosed upon (the tax man must be obliged), Flavia is pretty much on her own, left to find her own entertainment. There is an inchoate sadness in Flavia which adds depth to her character and explains some of the willfulness of her behavior. This is a lonely young girl who, nevertheless, is eager and determined to make her existence worthwhile.

So it is not at all unusual that she is on hand in the dead of night when the body of the church organist is discovered in St. Tancred's vault. It's Flavia on the case when no one can figure out how the man was killed or for that matter, why.

With Gladys in tow, the inventive Flavia is off and running.

Now if only Flavia's willfully stubborn father will sell the Shakespearean folio found in his library and pay off the damn taxes on the house! Oh wait, isn't there a jewel that is part of a long-lost de Luce family inheritance? A historic jewel discovered by the dead organist? Hence his untimely death?

The book has a cliff-hanger sort of ending which makes me wish I had the next book clutched in my hot little hands.

This is series that probably should be read in order, though reading the first two will set you up for the rest quite nicely.


  1. I have this one inthe TBR mountain. 2 and 3 were my favorites so far in this series. I thought the last one (set druing Christmas with the movie people and the strangling by celluloid film) pretty middle-of-the-road with a kind of anticlimactic ending.

    I had to skip most of your post because I like to read these books with a fresh outlook, so to speak. I don't even read the blurbs!

    And to reiterate: Welcome back! I missed ya.

    1. Thanks again, m'dear.
      I'm kind of with you about the books I liked best in this series, though I'm adding the current one to the list of faves. VERY atmospheric. I can say no more. :)

  2. I haven't read this series yet, but I will at some point start.

    However, I want to recommend The Earth Hums in B Flat, by Welsh librarian, Mari Strachan. The protagonist is 12 1/2 year-old Gwenni Morgan who lives in 1950s Wales, and is trying to figure out the world. There is a mysterious death but it's not an average mystery.

    Gwenni has a complicated family (who doesn't?), a vivid imagination and a flock of friends. It's quite a well-written book, which I missed after it was over.

    I keep hoping Strachan will write a sequel, but her next book seems to be about WWI and PTSD.

    This book is worth searching for.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Kathy. It does sound like a book I would like to read. I will definitely look for it. I might get lucky at the library. In the meantime I came home yesterday from said library loaded down with a bunch of books - two of which are Georgette Heyer re-reads. But I am obsessed with her work, so that's my excuse. :)

  3. Hi Yvette -- it's been a while, and I'm glad to return to a fascinating new-to-me author. I can't wait to try these books! I too love the English countryside milieu, and I can tell already that the young sleuth will appeal not only to me, but to also my 13-year old granddaughter who is as much of an avid reader as her grandmother.

    1. Oh, these are PERFECT books to read with your granddaughter. Just PERFECT. Let me know how you and she go on if you do decide to read them. Another series you and she might enjoy reading together is the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. But in both series you MUST begin at the beginning!!

  4. Consider me impressed - I am ordering the first one right now - thanks Yvette!

    1. Thanks so much, Sergio. I live to impress. Ha! So glad you liked my post. Let us know how you like Flavia. :)

  5. FYI: Just checked Abe Books, which sells used and remaindered books.

    The Earth Hums in B Flat is on their list; first few entries are under $3, including shipping. Third if $3.49, includes shipping.

    I've found their books come quickly and are in good condition.

  6. Thanks for the info, Kathy. And for the recommendation. I'll check it out. :)

  7. Kathy I added the book's cover to my Pinterest board of Books Not To Be Missed so I can't forget about it. :)


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