I recently joined the website, Netgalley, which gives you a chance to read advanced copies of books, in return for offering unbiased reviews of those books. I was thrilled when approved to read Alan Bradley's latest Flavia de Luce novel, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust.
I can't help it. I just find Flavia de Luce absolutely delightful. I want to be her friend, her confidante, her laboratory buddy. I confess that the last Flavia novel, The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, was probably my least favorite of the series (though still a fun read), and I was a bit tentative about this one. And it's true, I missed Buckshaw a lot (though probably not as much as Flavia). This novel finds Flavia in Canada, navigating boarding school after discovery that she's to be inducted in the same secret society as her mother.
Perhaps I envisioned a bit more secret-spy training for Flavia than the book delivered - instead, immediately upon her arrival, a dead body falls out of a chimney, and Flavia sets upon her usual course - proving the adults wrong and finding out whodunnit. It's a formula that still hasn't gotten old, because Bradley simply writes Flavia so well. She is such an amazing character - so likable, so true to herself. I can just picture her in the situations in which she finds herself, and imagine the adults around her and their expressions. Flavia has some good interactions with both her fellow students and teachers at this new academy -- many of whom knew her mother. the late Harriet. She proves herself a worthy detective, again, of course, using her wits and chemistry.
The whole Nide business is still a bit odd and confusing to me. I suppose that's the point, but it's hard not to have some resolution - though I suppose we are supposed to be sharing Flavia's similar frustration at this point.
Nevertheless, I am amazed at Bradley's ability to continue to write books that so embody this character. I often try to envision a Flavia film and then find myself hoping it never happens, as I would hate to have the Flavia in my head ruined by the movies.
Definitely worth a read, as always, and now I'm left bereft that I'll have to wait over a year for the next installment of Flavia's adventures. (4 out of 5 stars)