Who could have imagined an even grander adventure was in store for Flavia? In the latest installment, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, our heroine is headed to Canada, to study at the same school where Harriett learned her spy craft. And Flavia was in top form as she was faced with multiple mysteries, of course one of which was a murder.
My favorite of this series so far finds Flavia traveling to Canada, day dreaming of killing her escorts, through all sorts of dramatic poisoning. Never following through, of course, but seeing her genius of a brain continue to work and plot and plan was a delight. She is not even an evening in her new room when a dead body falls from the chimney. And, like all (except really book 6), she is off investigating. Although there are new challenges – she has a tough headmistress to appease, classes to attend, secret girls groups to get off to, chemistry lessons to resume, and the mystery of the missing girls – which is in addition to the dead woman – to solve. All while living up to the legend that is her mother. While apparently learning spy craft and being told she is never permitted to ask any questions. We get mystery, mayhem and even a few scenes that feel like chases (the dash between Miss Bodycote’s and the shop down the street so Flavia can phone the inspector was wonderful). And Flavia’s uncertainty as to who to trust and some slightly wrong conclusions, which are promptly corrected, displayed how nothing stops her and she plods forward, no matter what.
Jumping from scene to scene was thrilling and exhilarating. Flavia’s brain never rests and she is constantly moving quickly and it makes things so easy to read. Her speech is well beyond that of a normal 12 year old (at least today anyway – and I won’t comment on the decline of society and what text speak has done to the way we communicate these days) and reading her thoughts is like humming along to a pleasant melody – it flows and goes quickly and makes you want to sway to the music. She is a delight and she gets more delightful in each installment.
Flavia sets out to solve both the mystery of the missing girls (and she sort of does) while figuring out the mystery of the dead woman in her chimney (she totally does). And she is unable to trust anyone because all the adults connected with the school are more than they seem or have hidden agendas – with the exception of the laundry staff – and she is told to trust no one. When she finally solves the mystery and learns that she will be headed home it was a slight disappointment as the school and the staff seemed like opportunity wasted for more chaos and adventure. Although it will be a little relief to (I hope) learn a little more about the impact of her having inherited Buckshaw.
There were two things that felt a little missing. One was a little more contact from home. In the last book it seems that her family doesn’t hate her as much as she thinks, but to only get a few letters from one of the servants felt a little off. But, her ability to manipulate and her smarts were on full display and a joy to watch (or rather, read). The other was a little more about the Nide – the secret spy organization. Is she in, or not, is the question I was left with. Another year at the Female Academy might not have hurt…. but I can handle her heading home, or off to some foreign exotic place for her next mystery.
I thank you Mr. Alan Bradley for the wonderful world you have built and I eagerly await Flavia’s next adventure!
p.s. A note on the covers for all 6 (plus a small e story) installment – they are awesome. I love the creepy smiling skeleton on them all. I hope the same style follows through the series in its entirety!