Alan Bradley
January 2014Deadvaulted
Delacorte Press

After ten long years, Harriet de Luce is finally coming home. Well, her body is, at any rate. Harriet went on an overseas expedition years ago and never returned home—it wasn’t until now that her body was found frozen in the mountains of Nepal. Eleven year-old chemistry enthusiast Flavia de Luce and her family are thrown into a tailspin dealing with the realities of Harriet’s death and the upcoming funeral. But when Flavia begins to poke around, she learns that her mother may have been on more than a hiking expedition, and her death may have been more than an accident. It may have been murder. And Flavia has never been one to let a murder go uninvestigated.

THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES is the sixth novel in the Flavia de Luce series which begins with THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE. This series appeals to the romantic in me—set in England just after WWII, in a crumbling estate with a distant father, a dead mother and a trio of sisters. Flavia’s first person narrative throughout the novels is utterly engaging, as is her character—a precocious 11-year-old with a penchant for chemistry and poisons, and a persistence in getting involved in the local murder investigations. Although the series in general is light-hearted, THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES has a poignant undertone as Flavia faces the death of her mother, her awkward relations with her remaining family members, and the fallout from the return of her mother’s body to the family estate. It is sometimes easy to forget throughout Flavia’s exploits that she is just a child—albeit a brilliant one—but at the end of the day she is really just an 11-year-old girl who has lost her mother. THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES has some significant character development as secrets are revealed to and about more than one character. One of these is Dogger—a favorite character of mine. Dogger is a shell-shocked veteran who served with Flavia’s father in the war and is now the everyman about the house—and a solid rock for Flavia to depend on. We get a larger glimpse into Dogger’s disturbing back story during this installment, as well as learning fascinating things about other members of Flavia’s family. I would suggest starting with the first book in this series, THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE, since not only is every book in the series a real treat, it will allow the reader to watch the development of the cast of characters in Flavia’s sleepy village, and have a better understanding of how her family came to be where they are. It appears THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES is setting us up for further exploits—things in this novel tend more towards spies and espionage as opposed to the garden-variety murders of the previous novels, and I can only hope that Flavia will be back to foil evil plots in the future.
Erica Ruth Neubauer