The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place

Written by Alan Bradley
Review by Ann Chamberlin

This is the latest installment in the very popular history mystery series starring adolescent sleuth, pre-teen and chemistry whiz Flavia de Luce, set in the early 1950s. In this case, Dogger, faithful family servant and WWII vet, takes Flavia and her two older sisters punting past the village where the vicar was recently hanged for killing three of his parishioners with communion wine. Trailing her hand in the water, Flavia soon finds herself tangled in the corpse of another victim, a young man in very dramatic dress. Flavia busybodies and amateur-labs her way through local politics to get to the bottom of the crimes.

Upper-crust British girlhood of their great-grandmother’s generation has so little in common with what young people today experience with cell phones and action flicks that one marvels at how popular this series is with them. And yet it is, even though Bradley never dumbs down. I find that encouraging. Adult readers, too, can only love the challenge of literary and historical references as well as plenty of inducements to engage in STEM disciplines. You’ve got to run pretty fast to keep up with Flavia—and will relish every moment.