In this second Flavia de Luce novel, the town of Bishop’s Lacey plays host to some prestigious guests from the BBC. Rupert Porson, puppeteer and creator of the popular TV show “The Magic Kingdom,” has arrived in town with his entourage and plans to put on a show. Naturally, Flavia is in the thick of things, helping to set up the show and making friends with Rupert’s beautiful companion, Nialla. Being an exceptionally observant child, Flavia notices that there is some tension between Rupert and Nialla, and also that Rupert seems to have a surprising number of acquaintances in Bishop’s Lacey. When Rupert is murdered during the climactic moment of his show, Flavia is on the case, using her intelligence and passion for chemistry to discover the killer and uncover new information about a years-old tragedy.
How you feel about this series will largely depend on how you feel about its narrator and protagonist, Flavia de Luce. She’s an incredibly precocious 11-year-old girl who has an encyclopedic knowledge of poisons and can’t keep her nose out of a mystery. Personally, I don’t find her remotely believable, or even very likable, but she is extremely entertaining. This book moves fairly slowly, with lots of top-heavy exposition as the main players are introduced. For this reason, I was less interested in the mystery than in the de Luce family dynamics, which are both fascinating and a little disturbing. But fans of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie will undoubtedly enjoy this second installment of the series, and I’ve already borrowed the next two books from the library.