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
“…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…