Book Review: The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches is the sixth book in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

I loved everything about this book.  Flavia is fantastic, the storyline engaging and the setting captivating.  A wonderful read.  Highly recommended.  5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her long-lost mother, Harriet. Yet upon the train’s arrival in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear. Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd. Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia? Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test. Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself. Surrounded by family, friends, and a famous pathologist from the Home Office—and making spectacular use of Harriet’s beloved Gipsy Moth plane, Blithe Spirit—Flavia will do anything, even take to the skies, to land a killer

Favourite Quote

“…But ‘kill’, as you will have observed, like ‘spy’ and ‘stop’, is really just one more of those short but exceedingly troublesome words.”

(From The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley, page 220)


I’m going to keep this review fairly short, for fear of sounding repetitive, seeing as though it was only a few weeks ago that I reviewed my first Flavia de Luce book and my thoughts haven’t changed.  (You can read that review here.)  Honestly, they’ve not changed at all.  Quite simply, I love this book, love Flavia, love the storylines, love the setting, and like how science is intertwined with the narrative.  

The level of poignancy is heightened in this instalment, given the subject: the body of Flavia’s mother is returned to Buckshaw, a decade after she went missing and was presumed dead after a wartime mission.  The dichotomy between who Flavia thinks she is (a very clever small person) and what she is (an eleven year old motherless girl) really comes to fore.  With clever storytelling we get to see how Flavia processes this turn of events, as she tries to figure out her place in the world and in her family.

The family dynamics, again, are worth commenting on.  Flavia isn’t close to anyone in her family, or outside it really, apart from Dogger, her father’s valet.  There is a coldness from her father, and a distance between her and her sisters that she struggles to overcome and understand, and I can’t help but feel for her.  For such a young person, she is certainly quite isolated, but I wonder if much of this stems from the fact she comes across as unusual and strange to others. They don’t know how to be around her or how to speak to her because she is smarter than they are because they’ve never met a child quite like her.

And this leads to one of the highlights of the storytelling: witnessing how Flavia interacts with everyone she comes across.  She is indulged, told off and warned away at various points by various people, and her reaction to most of these is, ‘What is their motive?’  I like that level of analysis.  Flavia does not take the world at face value.  Yes, she does appear a little lofty at times, but she is never annoying.

I am completely hooked on this series, and can’t recommend it highly enough.  The question now, is whether to continue on with the series where I am at with it, or to go back to the beginning and start the first book…Hmm…



10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

  1. How’s this for a coincidence: the next book I picked up just happened to be another mystery, and the detective was another 10-year old girl named FLAVIA! What are the odds of that?!?! This one was set in Ancient Rome, and was a lot shorter (definitely aimed more toward middle-grade than Alan Bradley’s books), but I liked this Flavia character much more: she was clever but also nice and helpful. I recommended the book to you on Goodreads — it’s the first book in Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mystery Series. I’m listening to book 2 now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen this series around but never read any of the books. I’ve added the first book to my “Want To Read” list – thank you so much for the recommendation. Although it’s aimed at middle grade readers, I think I will enjoy it 🙂 And recently I’ve been reading a few middle grade books as research for a possible children’s story idea I’ve been mulling over, so another coincidence! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I listened to all four of the Roman Mysteries and really enjoyed them. They’re light reading of course, but well done for that. The first of the Alan Bradley Flavia mysteries finally became available at my library and I listened to the audiobook. I had a lot of the same problems as with the second one, but less so — I definitely liked it better. I think that if I’d read that one first, I would have been more biased toward overlooking some of the aspects that annoyed me about the second book. I’m still a bit baffled about why it seems to be so universally loved, though, when so much of it fell deadly flat for me. Funny how that happens. Different strokes for different folks, I guess!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that’s it exactly. I think sometimes it depends on how old you are when you first read the book, or what mood you’re in, what you expect. I know that since I’ve been studying writing craft, I notice (and can put name to) problems that I might have glided over in times past. I will look past a lot of writing issues if I like the character, but if I don’t like the character, then all those other issues just pile on.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Bookish Reflections – August 2020 | Sammi Loves Books

  3. I just finished reading book #2 of the series, and I wonder whether I would like Flavia better if I’d started somewhere else. I can see why people find her interesting — she’s incredibly clever and competent (at everything, unbelievably so at any age). But at least in the book I read, she doesn’t treat other people very well. She’s constantly lying and tricking people (even those who’ve done nothing to her, even when lying wasn’t even necessary), stealing things for her experiments, pretending to be helpful to gain favors but secretly thinking awful things about the person, deliberately manipulating her father and the other townspeople by putting on tears and claiming to be upset or pious. And she revels in showing off how much smarter she is than everyone else. I agree that her sisters are unreasonably awful to her, but I started to think that I wouldn’t like her as a sister either!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh dear…I’ve not read any of the earlier books in the series. I started reading at book 5. I wonder if she became more likeable as the series went on, and now the author has found the right balance? Hmm…

      I definitely agree – she would be a very difficult sister to have to put up with! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Or as I said in my Goodreads review, different readers have different perceptions and will draw the line elsewhere. You might love the 2nd book for all I know! You mentioned many of the same things that I didn’t like, but for you they never reached the level of annoying, whereas they pushed me over that edge. Plus there’s all the other little things that can push someone on one side or the other of the fence. Sometimes a story or character will just hit me wrong (or right) because of my mood that day, or because the audiobook narrator’s voice grates on me (which was a problem in this case). Once I started being annoyed by certain aspects of her character, it was like crossing a line, and after that any further examples jumped out at me, to the point of overshadowing the rest of the story. I think I’ll call it the “There she goes again!” effect. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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