The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches: A Flavia de Luce Novel
Precocious and cheeky Flavia de Luce, the 11-year-old sleuth of Buckshaw Manor, has had quite a year. She has solved a half-dozen murders and associated crimes much to the agitation of the local police department and the befuddlement of her family. In her spare time she mixes potions and frightening formulas in her late uncle’s laboratory, which serves as her dilapidated bedroom far from the rest of the family in the decaying Manor. She shares the ancient mansion with Daphne and Ophelia, her two elder sisters, and her widower father, Lord of the Manor.
Long-time housekeeper Mrs. Mullet and the lifelong family retainer, Dogger, tend the sprawling house and grounds while Father wanders about the place in a fog, mourning his long-departed wife, Harriet. His state of widowerhood is in question because Harriet, who holds the royal title as well as title to the estate, vanished during World War II on a mysterious trip to Tibet. She left no will, which leaves Father haplessly in charge of the affairs of the estate with only the right to sell off the silver, portraits and rare books from the vast library to shore up the climbing debt. His three brilliant but challenging daughters have more or less raised themselves.
"You don’t have to have read the entire series, as the stories are not serial in nature, but it helps to have read at least one or two to become acquainted with the richly drawn characters and atmosphere of post-World War II England."
THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES is the sixth installment of this generously awarded series that has drawn raves from critics and readers since THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE introduced us to this dauntless young girl, a combination Nancy Drew (only smarter and funnier) and Einstein (only younger).
We learned at the end of book five that the pall of Flavia’s absent mother’s mysterious disappearance was soon to be lifted as news arrives at Buckshaw Manor that Harriet has been found. She has indeed, frozen for 10 years in a deep Tibetan crevasse into which she either fell or was pushed. Her body has been preserved on dry ice, sealed in a coffin to be returned to Mother England. And arrive Harriet does, complete with a retinue of the Royal Guard and none other than Winston Churchill, the recently retired Prime Minister. Flavia, thoroughly confused and saddened by this sudden turn of events, is distracted at the train station by a strange man who approaches her, whispers “The Gamekeeper is in danger,” and is promptly pushed by a person or persons unknown to be crushed beneath the wheels of the train.
And so opens book six. Another murder to solve that leads to… To say more would spoil the most page-turning edition of this delightful series, so hereby ends the discussion of the plot.
You don’t have to have read the entire series, as the stories are not serial in nature, but it helps to have read at least one or two to become acquainted with the richly drawn characters and atmosphere of post-World War II England. Flavia is no ordinary 11-year-old girl. She is surrounded not by dolls or tea services, but by test tubes and vials of chemicals, and makes frequent use of her Bunsen burner. Frilly dresses would interfere with peddling her faithful bicycle, Gladys, with whom she converses as she bounces over the hills and dales on bumpy country lanes in pursuit of villains of many stripes.
As the fog of her mother’s mysterious disappearance and the reason she is held in such esteem lifts, a whole new future awaits our Flavia. Will it be shared with her fans, or will puberty and the mundane affairs of a changing world enfold her as she turns 12?
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 17, 2014