Saturday, December 20, 2014

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley

First Sentence:  “Banished!” the wild wind shrieked as it tore at my face.
      
Falva de Luce has been sent off to boarding school in Toronto; the same school her mother had attended.  On her first night there, down from the chimney in her room drops a charred and mummified body.  It had clearly been there some time and it’s head had separated from the rest.  Flavia is determined both to find out the victim’s identity and who killed her, but also solve the mystery of girls disappearing without a trace from the school
      
A compelling opening, or hook, is always important to a story.  This had a great hook!
      
Flavia is now 12, but she is anything but your typical pre-teen.  She is a self-trained chemist, bright beyond her years and accustomed to corpses, this being the seventh she has encountered.  She is a completely fascinating character.  It is not that she is particularly likable, but that she is smart and clever, sympathetic to those who are weak, and vulnerable in her own way.  In a sense, Flavia is a character to whom anyone who grew up feeling different, isolated or alone and easily understand, “No sooner was I safely among the gravestones than a great feeling of warmth and of calm contentment came sweeping over me.”
      
Although, for series fans, it seems strange for Flavia to not have her usual supporting cast, her new one is more than admirable.  In fact, there are a number of them who are quite delightful. 
      
There are some references to previous books.  However, if one has not read them, it is not a hindrance, although it does leave open the pleasure awaiting a new reader to start at the beginning of the series.
      
Bradley has an excellent voice and captures Flavia brilliantly and with soft humor.  She is both very human and a little bit frightening, but never in a cruel way. 
      
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust” is a very good, clever mystery with good twists and a more than satisfactory ending.

A CHIMNEY SWEEPERS COME TO DUST (Trad Mys-Flavia de Luce-Canada-Contemp) – VG
Bradley, Alan – 7th in series
Delacorte Press, 2014

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