Speaking From Among The Bones is the fifth book in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley
Quick review (read on for full review)
I absolutely loved this book – and Flavia too! Beautifully written with a captivating cast of characters and an engaging plot, this is one of my favourite reads of the year so far. 5 / 5
Summary (from Goodreads)
Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sisters’ diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of St. Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s never such thing as an open-and-shut case.
“I’ve mentioned before my passion for poisons and my special fondness for cyanide. But, to be perfectly fair, I must admit that I also have something of a soft spot for strychnine, not just for what it is, but for what it’s capable of becoming. Brought into the presence of nascent oxygen, for instance, these rather ordinary white crystals become at first rich blue in colour, then pass in succession through purple, violet, crimson, orange and yellow.
A perfect rainbow of ruin!
(From Speaking From Among The Bones by Alan Bradley, page 63)
I absolutely loved this book – and Flavia too! Beautifully written and heart-warming in its way, Flavia de Luce is wonderful as the younger-than-average sleuth, who no doubt possesses more brains than most. Although only a child herself, she is more than capable of working her way through the evidence, most of which she has collected herself, to locate the culprit.
First, a few thoughts on book covers and titles. As regular readers of these reviews will have already worked out, I cannot resist beautiful book cover art, and it was the cover of the next book in the series which first alerted me to these books. As for the cover of this book, I love the subtle colours, the tree branches, the headless stone carving and the bats. And the titles of the books are dramatic and evocative. Of the books in the series that I’ve so far read, I’ve learned these titles are inspired by Thomas Parnell’s poem, A Night-Piece on Death from 1721. On to the review…
Although I jumped into the series with book 5 (and as soon as I finished it, I devoured book 6), I don’t feel that I needed to have read the preceding four books to understand what was going on in this one. However, I will of course, be returning to book one because after enjoying them so far I. Must. Read. Them. All.
The series is set during the 1950s, a time which sees much change in England. With the scars of the second world war still visible for many, this aspect of the setting isn’t down-played or glossed over – thanks very much to the character of Dogger. The book is full of quotable passages, and although it stars a child – Flavia is eleven at the time of “Speaking From Among The Bones” – this isn’t a story for children, and never does it once come across as childish.
I love the fact that Flavia loves poisons. And that she has her own fully functional, fully stocked, science laboratory, where she carries out the analysis on the evidence – or else plans and prepares for any other weird and wonderful experiment she has dreamed up. The world around her is at once both wonderfully simple and tremendously complex, given her age and her abilities. She is a child, but she doesn’t act like one, yet when something arises for which she isn’t prepared or isn’t necessarily old enough to comprehend, her prism shifts and we see the eleven year old beneath the older, wiser exterior she projects and others take for granted.
The most trying thing of all for Flavia is her home-life. Her relationship with her sisters is complicated, and the one with her father non-existent. There is a distance between her and nearly everyone else in Bishop’s Lacey, even the people she is related to, except for one person. The one person who seems to understand her best is Dogger, and in him she has an ally and a confidante.
The mystery is a good one, the setting perfectly captivating and the humour, often laugh-out-loud funny. I have nothing but good things to say about this book, and I have added a new name to my list of favourite authors. The next book in the series is, The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches, my review for which you will be able to read soon…