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.