Speaking From Among The Bones by Alan Bradley – Review

Speaking from among the bones

Book Jacket:

From award-winning author Alan Bradley comes the next cozy British mystery starring intrepid young sleuth Flavia de Luce, hailed by USA Today as “one of the most remarkable creations in recent literature.”

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.

You can read an excerpt here.


Not since the first book have I enjoyed a Flavia de Luce mystery this much.

At this point I think we all know what we’re getting with an Alan Bradley novel – another fun mystery that falls prey to the rambunctious sleuthing of an eleven year old mad chemistry genius – and indeed, another dead body has been uncovered (literally, it turns out) in Bishop’s Lacey, and our intrepid teenage heroine is very much on the case. And so this book is true to form in every respect, save one: this time around, the changes afoot at Buckshaw are just as interesting as the case itself.

And therein lies my delight with this fifth installment of what certainly promises to be a long-running series. For a few books now I’ve been longing for some change, however glacial, to affect the de Luce status quo because the family dynamics have been feeling, well, a bit repetitive to me, a bit worn. And happily enough, this book does just that – and on top of the tantalizing way in which Bradley gradually reveals the shifting de Luce bedrock, I also particularly enjoyed how these changes, and Flavia’s reaction to them, demonstrated how Bradley has oh-so subtly matured Flavia over the course of the series, such that now he’s starting to explore how that growth is gradually, oh-so gradually, affecting Flavia’s relationships within her family. Now, yes, these are indeed subtle changes – I mean, Flavia IS still eleven – but tremors and tremblings are more definitely afoot at Buckshaw, without and within, and this book does a lovely job setting the stage for even larger tectonic shifts to come. And I enjoyed it all very, very much.

As for other changes to be found – of course there are some new additions to our beloved cast of characters, as once again Bishop’s Lacey manages to invisibly stretch its boundaries and nearly convince us that indeed these characters have been here all along. However two characters in particular left a more decided impression on me – one, for his personal tie to the de Luce family, which made for a very interesting reveal, and the other for being, dare I say it, a bit of competition for Flavia herself, with just as much cheek, no less. And speaking of the head count, as happy as I am to see another body hit the floor, at this rate I daresay Bishop’s Lacey will achieve a murder rate unheard of across all of England, save for Miss Marple’s town.

And lastly, one cannot forget the mystery. After the last book, wherein frankly I was underwhelmed by the plot, I was a tad dubious this time around, but happily Bradley is thoroughly back up to snuff, providing us with delicious clues to chase (I mean, a gas mask and a piece of lace – how can you not love it?) and twisty plots to uncover. And as always, it was a joy to watch Flavia cunningly employ her particular genius and youthful innocence to great effect; to watch the springs and cogs of her eleven year old mind at work.

All around, I enjoyed this latest installment in the Flavia series very much. Change is in the wind at Buckshaw, no doubt about it, and I simply cannot wait to see what happens next.

Well played, Alan Bradley. Well played.

Byrt Grade: A

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Publishers Weekly (starred review) says:

Memorable, often funny prose complements the crafty plot of Bradley’s fifth Flavia de Luce novel…Portraying a 11-year-old as a plausible sleuth and expert in poisons is no mean feat, but Bradley makes it look easy.

Cozy Little Book Journal says:

For Alan Bradley fans already familiar with Flavia de Luce, you won’t be disappointed. Speaking From Among the Bones is one of the best so far