Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book Review: The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #9)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Flavia; updates on her
Cons: Very weak mystery
The Bottom Line:
Holiday setting
Gives updates on Flavia
With weak mystery

Fishing for Bodies

Cliffhangers work.  Oh, I don’t like them, especially in books, but they make coming back for the latest in a series a complete priority.  It’s why I was anxious to read The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place, the latest Flavia de Luce mystery.  After how the last one ended, I had to know what was going to happen to Flavia next.

For those who haven’t met Flavia, she is now a twelve-year-old chemist in 1952 England.  And if you haven’t met her, you could easily jump in here.  Yes, the ending of the last book would be ruined, and you wouldn’t have the complete background on some of the character relationships, but you would get what you need here.

In order to help her family deal with their grief, Flavia, her two older sisters, and the family’s servant Dogger have been shipped off on holiday.  They are supposed to be enjoying several peaceful days of boating, and Dogger has just happened to pick a location where a vicar poisoned three ladies in his congregation with the communion wine.  While Flavia is thinking about this crime, she is letting her hand drift in the water and suddenly grabs something.  Instead of the fish she thinks it might be, she discovers it’s a body.  Was there foul play?  Can Flavia figure out what happened to the corpse?

Maybe it was because I had to wait for this book while I’ve read the others closer together (I started this series late), or maybe it is because the series is still uneven, but I found this one a bit weak.  The plots tend to wander even at the best of times, so I wasn’t too surprised when that happened here.  However, I found a part where Flavia envisions what happened when the three women were poisoned to be preposterous instead of cute, which is how I’m sure we were supposed to find it.  When it came time for the climax, things were just too rushed, with surmises and guesses being treated by fact.  And if Flavia’s view of the villain’s motive was the case, it was extremely weak.

Fortunately, we have the characters to pull us through.  Yes, fans like me wanting to know what happens next will be glad to get the updates Flavia gives us early on in the book.  There are some developments in other relationships as well, which I appreciated; I especially loved the new side we got to see of Dogger.  But this is still Flavia’s show, and she is in top form.  She meets a wild assortment of suspects that entertain as always.

I’m continuing this series on audio.  Seriously, if you haven’t given Jayne Entwistle’s efforts a change, you really need to do that.  She brings Flavia to vivid life, and considering she’s our narrator, that can’t be easy.  The other characters are good, too.  And Jayne does all this without taking over the book.  It truly is marvelous.

With how this book ends, I’m curious to know what will come next for Flavia.  I could see the series progressing in a new direction from here.  Or I could imagine the series ending here.  That final scene plays well either way.

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place is entertaining, but as a mystery it is weak.  This book is best read by fans wanted to know what is next for Flavia.

Check out the rest of Flavia's adventures.

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