It’s a little odd to pick up a book review in the middle of a series, but bear with me because this one is worth it. Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley is the fifth novel in the Flavia de Luce series. Flavia de Luce, main character of this mystery series, is a precocious eleven year-old amateur detective living in the 1950s English countryside with her teenage sisters and her father. Disregarded by the adults due to her age, by this book she has already gained notoriety from the local police force because of her stellar sleuthing skills, genius in her very own chemist’s laboratory and, above all, an uncanny proclivity toward getting into trouble.
Here I must stop to give a hearty hat tip to Alan Bradley. Born in 1938 in Canada, Alan Bradley had always been interested in writing but didn’t write his first book until he was retired in 2006, resulting in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, the first Flavia de Luce novel. For that book, he won the Debut Dagger award in 2007 and has published four other books since. Not only is he a burgeoning author at the age of 75 but he has practically written a book a year. If that isn’t impressive and inspirational for those of us who secretly would like to be authors, I don’t know what is.
In Speaking from Among the Bones, Flavia’s village of Bishop’s Lacey is unearthing the bones of St. Tancred for the quincentennial of his death. That is, until they find the church’s newly missing organist dead and sealed up in the saint’s tomb. Sidestepping the efforts by the police, Flavia does her own detecting, which leads her to uncovering more mysteries about her mother Harriet who died when she was a child, as well as putting her in mortal danger on more than one occasion. That, in addition with potentially being evicted from Buckshaw (the family manor) due to her family’s dwindling assets, turns the pressure on high for this eleven year-old. Although Bradley’s Flavia is a mature child and also a child prodigy, one can’t help but revert back a few years (or decades) and seeing the world through a very young person’s eyes, as Bradley speaks through her narration. The youthful sense of adventure and the ignorance of one’s mortality are two qualities of Flavia that make her our heroine and root for her from beginning to end.
I wholeheartedly recommend starting this series at the beginning to delightfully get to know Flavia and her world.