The Buckshaw Chronicles: Volume One
The Buckshaw Chronicles: Volume One contains the first three novels by Canadian author Alan Bradley featuring the fascinating 11-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce. Flavia and her eccentric English family are first introduced in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie when Flavia discovers a body in the cucumber patch of her crumbling family home, Buckshaw. This, together with her father’s argument with the same stranger the day before and a dead jackdaw with a postage stamp stuck over its beak, leads Flavia on the first of her exhilarating and sometimes dangerous adventures.
The second and third novels in the series, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag and A Red Herring Without Mustard, delightfully expand the list of colourful characters and allow Flavia’s talents for chemistry and meticulous observation to be well used.
Some readers may find the idea of an 11-year-old chemistry aficionado a bit of a stretch as the heroine of this series of books, but Bradley manages to tread the fine line between precocious know-it-all and amateur detective quite well, leaving us with a main character who is a cross between Hermione Granger and Miss Marple. Bradley uses Flavia’s particularity as a child to allow her to roam around the village of Bishop’s Lacey and the surrounding countryside almost ‘invisibly’ on her trusty bike Gladys whilst asking pointed questions which might otherwise arise suspicion coming from an adult.
Bradley also successfully evokes 1950s post-war village life in Britain, which is all the more remarkable given that he did not travel to England for the first time until after the first novel was published in 2009. These novels were never intended to be too taxing, fitting into the ‘cosy’ murder mystery genre with ease, but that makes them no less enjoyable.