Book Review : The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place
A Flavia de Luce Mystery
By Alan Bradley
Flavia is enjoying the summer, spending her days punting along the river with her reluctant family. Languishing in boredom, she drags a slack hand in the water, and catches her fingers in the open mouth of a drowned corpse.
Brought to shore, the dead man is found to be dressed in blue silk with ribbons at the knee, and wearing a single red ballet slipper.
Flavia needs to put her super-sleuthing skills to the test to investigate the murder of three gossips in the local church, and to keep her sisters out of danger. But what could possibly connect the son of an executed killer, a far too canny police constable, a traveling circus, and the publican’s mysteriously talented wife?
(Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
Since this is book nine in the series, and I’ve read them all, it should be an automatic clue that I quite enjoy Flavia.
If it’s still a mystery why Flavia is one of my favorite detectives, I’ve collected nine clues for you, in honor of this being the ninth in the series:
Clue 1 – Sassy, brilliant, still naive and practical.
Clue 2 – Relationships brimming with danger, confusion and malice
Clue 3 – The onion layered character, devoted to Flavia – a mystery unto himself.
Clue 4 – Bumbling individuals who need to rely on the expertise of a child.
Clue 5 – Bygone era.
Clue 6 – Rather stiff and curious individual
Clue 7 – Whimsical, fanciful and yet creepy
Clue 8 – Hidden layers revealed while some are kept secret
Clue 9 – The ever faithful, though exasperated individual
I will add there was one element I deeply missed – Gladys the bike was nowhere to be found between the pages of this book. I adore Flavia’s relationship with her bike.
Answers to clues:
Clue 1 – Flavia herself, girl wonder of poisons, logical thinking and cool even while having hooked a dead body through the mouth while her fingers trailed in the river.
Clue 2 – Daffy and Feely, both a whirlwind of emotions embodied. I’m grateful I don’t have sisters like them – I too would consider poison.
Clue 3 – Dogger, the faithful servant who always has Flavia’s best interest at heart – even to the point of possibly finding mysteries for her to solve for her happiness.
Clue 4 – The inspector on the case, he definitely didn’t want Flavia involved. The undertaker was another one who certainly enjoyed Flavia at first, then took a turn for the worse in his feelings for the young sleuth.
Clue 5 – England post WWII, with cars but with quaint villages and fields for a young detective to explore.
Clue 6 – The dead of course, who always hide such interesting clues.
Clue 7 – The traveling circus, quite a mixed up and suspicious affair.
Clue 8 – A son with a chemical addiction, clergy who may be innocent, gossiping biddies, police officers who may not be so innocent and a landlady full of regret.
Clue 9 – The much admired Hewitt, though exasperated he shows his true colors and pays attention to the young detective, Flavia.
Here are a couple of favorite quotes:
“‘Thank you,’ I replied, baring my teeth and rewarding him with a full-on but well-chosen grin from my inner grab bag of smiles.” (p.69)
“‘This is harder than it looks,’ I said after a couple of minutes. My arm was already beginning to ache.
‘Sustained muscular action often is,’ Dogger said. ‘Without prior training, that is. Such fatigue is due largely to a surplus of chloride, potassium, lactic acid, and magnesium, caused by muscular contraction, and a simultaneous insufficiency of creatine phosphate, glycogen, and adenosine triphosphate.’
Why had no one ever put it so plainly? It suddenly made such perfect sense.” (p. 107)
“How pleasant it is, as you sit in an ancient church, to ponder poisons, surrounded as you are by the towering toxicity of the stained-glass windows.” (p. 243)
“I could see at a glance that sunlight was not welcome here.” (p. 295)
“Poor Alf! I thought. His life was measured in parsnips.” (p. 345)
4 out of 5 stars
There is truly no other book I can think of like the Flavia de Luce mysteries. I would recommend trying The Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters – he is a clever monk and works with limited resources to solve murders.