Book of the Day

20180130CoverTheGraves a Fine and Private PlaceAlanBradley


By Alan Bradley

Delecorte Press
ISBN 978-0345539991
Publication Date:  January 30, 2018

Buy it here!


Review by Liz Gatterer

Flavia de Luce is the absolutely spellbinding, precocious, 12-year-old, British, sleuth that has stolen my heart.  She may have even roosted Hermione Granger from the position of “the girl I most wish I could have been”.  I began to read The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley, which is actually the ninth book in the series, and was hooked.  I subsequently purchased the first 8 books and have binge read/listened my way through all of them in less than a week.  These are not quick reads, mind you, but sometimes sleepless nights and take-out dinners for the family are the prices one must pay to satisfy an obsession (and possibly I needed something with a  little more “sweetness” as I had just finished re-reading It by Stephen King).  But, back to Flavia.

Flavia is the youngest daughter of the recently deceased Laurence de Luce. Having lost her mother as an infant and now in mourning for her beloved father, she has decided life is no longer worth living and has plans to end it all while on a boat trip with her loathsome older sisters and Dogger, the families’ faithful factotum.  But she is brought out of her malaise when she, literally, fishes a corpse out of the river.  Absently trailing her fingers in the water she hooks her fingers into the mouth of the floating remains and in her absolutely practical and unflustered way, she simply informs Dogger that “we’d best make for the pier.” With Dogger off to fetch the police and her sister evacuating the contents of her stomach, Flavia begins her examination of the body.  Without the slightest qualm, she searches the body and collects what evidence she can, (obviously she cannot conduct a PROPER post-mortem on the river bank!) and then with her endless knowledge of poisons,  she deduces the likely cause of death. The eyeballs smell of apples, so it must be cyanide, of course. And that is just the beginning…

What first intrigued me about the series was that it is not categorized as a children’s book or Young Adult and yet the protagonist is a young girl living in 1950’s England.   What I discovered was a cleverly conceived character that is a combination of Hermione Granger, Sherlock Holmes, Temperance Brennen (the television version) and a bit of Elizabeth Bennet.  Mr. Bradley’s style of writing is quick-witted, fact-laden and extremely fun to read.  Although a Canadian that had actually never stepped foot in England until after he had won the Crime Writer’s Debut Dagger Award for the first Flavia de Luce novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, he perfectly captures what is, to me at least, that quintessentially British cadence that authors like Lewis Carrol or Terry Pratchett are known for.  I can see why this isn’t necessarily a “kid’s” book, although it speaks to the kid in me.  Overall it is a wonderful series for most ages.