As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust – Alan Bradley
Hard on the heels of the return of her mother’s body from the frozen reaches of the Himalayas, Flavia, for her indiscretions, is banished from her home at Buckshaw and shipped across the ocean to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, her mother’s alma mater, there to be inducted into a mysterious organization known as the Nide.
No sooner does she arrive, however, than a body comes crashing down out of the chimney and into her room, setting off a series of investigations into mysterious disappearances of girls from the school.
I’m finally caught up on all the Flavia de Luce books!! Which leaves me feeling bittersweet because I really enjoy hanging out with her and now I have to wait for the next book like everyone else!!
Fun fact: this is the only Flavia book I have in hardcover and (I’m sorry, I have to brag here), it’s signed by Alan Bradley who is an absolutely adorable man. Flavia’s voice and personality are so strong and so girlishly realistic, you wouldn’t think her creator was a man in his seventies.
This book takes us out of jolly ol’ England and into Canada – Toronto, in fact. I was intrigued by the setting since I live just outside of Toronto and I’ve been in the Danforth area, so I had fun trying to imagine where Miss Bodycote’s school could be.
Of course, the only problem with it taking place outside of Bishop’s Lacey is that a lot of the characters you’ve come to know and love are mentioned in passing, but don’t actively play a role. There are many new intriguing characters – Mrs. Bannerman, the acquitted murderess, for one – and it’s fascinating to see Flavia interact with a bunch of girls in her age group (previously, we’d seen her interact with mostly adult figures), but I missed her volatile relationship with her sisters.
Another shift in this installment is the story line. I think the sixth book, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (which was my personal favourite), marked a transition. The series is no longer simply a collection of unrelated mysteries; it started to hint at the bigger picture and Flavia’s role within that larger narrative. So while it makes sense that this book continued along that path of pheasant sandwiches, it was also a little frustrating. Flavia asks a lot of questions but doesn’t get a lot of (solid) answers. It does do a great job at setting up future adventures (there’ll be a total of ten books once the series ends), and I’m eager to see where Flavia ends up.