Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mewed / Alan Bradley
Toronto: Doubleday, c2016.
Flavia, back at Buckshaw Manor after being rather unceremoniously ejected from the Toronto Finishing School she was at in her last book...Gladys, Dogger, her sisters, Antigone & Inspector Hewitt... what more could she ask?
Perhaps that her father isn't hospitalized with pneumonia when she arrives home to a rather lacklustre greeting. Perhaps that she could go and see him instead of getting put off constantly. And perhaps that their family could have a nice Christmas together instead of having so much difficulty relating to one another, while Flavia runs around trying to solve the very odd murder she has of course run across once again.
In this volume, Flavia is running an errand for the vicar's wife and encounters a dead body hanging upside down in an isolated country cottage. Is it something occult? Is it a strange health craze gone wrong? Flavia must sort through many suspects and investigate the chemical clues to come to a conclusion. As usual, her science is top-notch but her ability to read people's relationships is a bit shakier. She is surprised by people even though the reader has begun to suspect things a bit earlier on...
If you've been following this series, you'll want to immediately pick up this latest addition to the story. It's powerful, melancholy, and Flavia is really coming into her own as she slowly begins to age, just a bit. Her understanding of the world is growing, and a huge responsibility is about to fall on her shoulders; we start to believe that she is up to it by the end of this book.
If you haven't read the series yet, do begin! This one can be read alone but will most certainly be enriched by having read the earlier books to add to the backstory. I'm always eager to read more about Flavia and this book was a very satisfying addition to her story.
If you like this book, I strongly recommend going back to the beginning and making sure you read all of the books in this series to really understand Flavia and her surroundings.
Deanna Raybourne's Veronica Speedwell series makes me think of Flavia might be as a grownup -- even if it is set a generation back in the Victorian era. Veronica is a lady adventuress who conceivably could have been acquainted with Flavia's intrepid Aunt or even her mother Harriet.
Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes series, on the other hand, features another very clever girl detective -- 14 yr old Enola Holmes -- but is directed at younger readers. It's full of Sherlockian and Victorian sleuthing so a little less modern than Flavia but with another youthful protagonist dealing with women's roles in the world.