Monday, October 31, 2016

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley

First Sentence:  The winter rain slashes at my face like icy razor blades, but I don’t care.
Flavia returns from Canada to find her father is in the hospital unable to have visitors, and only Dogger, family employee, to greet her return.   Unable to visit her father, and to keep busy, Flavia runs an errand for the Vicar’s wife, but finds the reclusive woodcarver’s body hanging upside down on the back of his bedroom door, with only a cat to keep him company.
What an intriguing opening.  Even with a sense of threat, one has to smile at the anthropomorphizing of her bicycle—“Gladys’s wheels groan horribly beneath us.  The biting cold has penetrated her steel cones and seized the tendons of her brake cables.” 
It’s also nice to have a brief introduction to the members of her family.  Bradley conveys emotions so well; Flavia’s hopefulness, her restraint and regret, and finally, her concern and guilt.  One can’t help but love Dogger, the family's handyman, as he is the one person who seems to really care for, and understand, Flavia.
Flavia makes one stop, wonder, and research—“The human brain performs more efficiently when taking in humid air than it does in hot or cold dry weather.”  Hmmm.  Twelve-year-old Flavia is unique.  One either loves her, or is terrified and repulsed by her.  She has clearly spent much of her life being bullied, and has found her own way of surviving within her family.  Either way, she is a curious and unique character—“I’m sorry if I seem to digress, but that is what I was thinking at the moment.  It’s the way my mind works.  Things are not the same in real life as they are in, for instance, the fictional world of Sherlock Holmes.”
Bradley has such a wonderful voice and use of language—“I know that there are people who are as barmy about books as Father is about postage stamps.  My sister Daffy, for instance, can prattle on about flyleaves,  colophons, and first editions not only until the cows have come home, but until they have put on their nightcaps, gone to bed, switched off the lights, and begun snoring in their cowsheds.”  The references to actual historical figures provide a sense of time and social strata.       
Flavia is a combination of amazing self-confidence and a audacity, underpinned by her intelligence, imagination and love of learning—“The falling snow and half-light of the low-hanging, leaden sky made the street seems as if it were located in some far-off mythical underground kingdom, and I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see Dante, or even old Odysseus himself…”  Yet for all her eccentricity, she understands what it is to be bullied, and “adopts” fellow outsiders, not always wisely.
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’dhas an excellent twist, and such a clever plot; so much so that we only realize it as it unfolds.  Flavia is, indeed, a unique and wonderful character.

THRICE THE BRINDED CAT HATH MEW’D (Trad Mys-Flava de Luce-England-1950s) – VG
      Bradley, Alan – 8th in series

      Delacorte Press – Sept 2016

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