Friday, September 2, 2016

Book Review: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #7)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Intriguing mystery mostly at center stage
Cons: A bit slow at times as new setting/characters introduced
The Bottom Line:
Flavia is in
Canada ready to find
Even more secrets

How Nice to Them to Arrange a Dead Body as a Welcome

I must admit I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came time to listen to As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, the seventh in the Flavia de Luce mystery series.  I knew the book would find Flavia in Canada at a boarding school, and I knew that many fans of the series didn’t like it because the regular cast of characters weren’t around.  Personally, I found it to be a wonderful addition the series.

It’s the fall of 1951, and twelve-year-old Flavia is heading to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy, her mother’s alma mater, for formal schooling.  She is not at all excited about the prospect, however, since it means she isn’t at her beloved home, Buckshaw behind in England.  Her traveling companions, the dean of the school and his wife, don’t help things at all.

Things start looking up her first night at the school, however, when a dead body drops out of her chimney.  The corpse is charred and decapitated.  Flavia is quite ecstatic to have a new mystery to solve.  But who might the corpse be?  How long has it been there?  And can Flavia figure out who the killer is?

Now I will start out with my usual complaint about the series, the book starts off a little slowly.  Yes, we need time to get to know Flavia’s new surroundings and the teachers and students at Miss Bodycote’s.  Still, there are several scenes that seem to be longer than they need to be to introduce us to everyone.

However, things pick up fairly early, and the pace is steady from that point on.  There are several girls who have vanished mysteriously, and any one of them could be the corpse.  Throwing further complications into Flavia’s path, she isn’t allowed to ask any of the other young women about themselves or each other.  It makes for an interesting read as we watch Flavia work her way around these road blocks to find the solution.

And why the ban on Flavia asking questions?  It’s because of a storyline introduced to the series in the previous book.  I’m not going to say more about it than that, but fans of the series will be glad to see that particular thread is woven quite strongly into this book.  The series is heading in a direction I never would have expected from the early books, and I’m finding I like this twist on things quite a bit.

Now, I will admit that I missed the stable of regular characters a bit as well, although it was nice to not have the constant fighting between Flavia and her two older sisters.  This book is populated with a bunch of strong characters, however.  Even better, each one of them is a suspect, so it makes the puzzle that much better.

As always, Jane Entwistle’s narration is wonderful.  She gets to give many characters a Canadian accent in this book.  Okay, so if I didn’t know the book was set in Canada, I would have said it was American, but I honestly don’t usually hear a difference between our two countries’ accents anyway.  (Is there even one?)  She still infuses her performance with such joy, it’s hard not to fall in love with Flavia, or at least the Flavia she presents.

While Flavia may not be at home, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust is a strong addition to the series that advances her character’s story.  Fans who go into this looking for something different in the series will be richly rewarded.

Looking for more of Flavia's adventures?  Here are the Flavia de Luce Mysteries in order.


  1. I liked this one too, even though I missed the gang in England. The new one is out this month, I think, I can't wait!

    1. The new one comes out in a couple of weeks. Been working my way through the older ones so I'd be ready for it. Now, I just need my library to get the audio version.

  2. I still have to start the series. Geez.

    1. It's amazing how quickly you can get behind on a series, isn't it? Happens to me more often than I want to admit.

  3. I haven't read this series but hear nothing but good things about it.

  4. I wish someone told me they use a spiritistic device in this book! I stopped listening to it in the middle. Can you tell me, is that just a one off thing in that chapter (can I edit the night in Jumbo's room and still make sense of the story?) And is it something they do again in later books?

    1. It was a one time thing for sure. I don't remember it being a major part of the plot, but it's been a couple years since I listened, and I don't really remember for sure.

    2. I am going to see about editing that out then. I compress all my audios. The 10.5 hr book is one big file that takes maybe 100-150MB

  5. (By the way, I know you say you don't notice a difference, but Jane's "Canadian" accent was AWFUL! It's actually the first time she stumbled in her reading. The characters sound like they are from the United States mid-west! Definitely not southern Ontario!)