The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the sixth book in the Flavia de Luce mystery series. If you've made it this far into the series, you have a pretty good idea what to expect.
This book picks up a week after Speaking from Among the Bones, where Flavia learns her mother has been found. It starts with Harriet's return to Buckshaw, the crumbling estate that's housed the de Luce family for generations. Flavia meets Winston Churchill, then speaks with a tall stranger who passes on a cryptic message before getting run over by a train. Someone on the platform shouts that he was pushed, leading Flavia to investigate, despite the activities sparked by Harriet's return.
This is very much in the same vein as previous books. Flavia remains precocious and charming, her sisters still bully her, the family remains distant from one another, and we learn more of Buckshaw's secrets. At this point, the estate is basically another character in the books.
There are some major revelations in this book. Obviously, we find out what happened to Harriet. We find out why she was in the Himalayas. We learn of a whole secret society, with the de Luce family at its center. (Or, at least, the youngest daughter of each generation.) We learn more about Dogger, the faithful manservant.
We also meet another branch of the family, the Cornwall de Luces. Lena de Luce and her daughter, Undine, show up to see Harriet. Undine gives Flavia a taste of her own medicine, in that she's younger, annoying, and knows more than someone her age has any right to. She's bilingual, has traveled extensively, and is clever and well-versed.
As in the previous book, I found the tension uneven in this book. There's a mystery to solve, there's family drama, there's all the stuff that's going on. But I never felt a need for Flavia to take any part of it. I felt like the mystery would've been solved with or without her intervention, in the end.
I had to check there would be more books after this. In theory, the series could have wrapped up after this book. I just didn't want it to. The revelations in this book spark a lot more questions, and bring a lot of potential new conflicts. The next book looks to be changing its setting, though whether it goes that way and forces us to meet a whole new cast, or continues to stick around Buckshaw and Bishop's Lacey, we'll have to see.
I listened to this book on audio, narrated by the ever-delightful Jayne Entwistle. She brings the same charming jocularity to this installment. If you like her performance in the last five, you'll like this one just as well.
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