***Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for previous books in this series!***
At the end of Speaking from Among the Bones, Flavia and her family received the shocking news that her mother, who disappeared many years ago somewhere in Tibet, had been found. This book begins with the de Luce family waiting at the train station for Harriet’s body to come home. Though Flavia is shocked and grieving, she can’t help wondering why Winston Churchill himself has come to pay his respects. Then there’s the man on the platform who whispers a mysterious message into Flavia’s ear and falls to his death on the tracks minutes later. Or was he pushed? As Flavia tries to sort out her feelings about her mother’s death, she can’t help but dig into the secrets of her family’s past — which, of course, turn out to be much bigger and more important than she ever imagined. Not only does she eventually solve the case of the man who died at the train station, but she discovers shocking information about Harriet’s death — and about her own future destiny.
I’ve enjoyed the Flavia de Luce series from the start, but this book is definitely my new favorite. The mystery plot is only so-so; the backstory of Flavia’s mother is rather predictable, and the villain of the book doesn’t have a terribly coherent motivation for some of the events that take place. Still, there is definitely more to be learned about the de Luce family’s past, and I’m sure additional solutions will be revealed in future books! I also think some of the secondary characters got short shrift in this installment; I wanted more of the vicar, the inspector, Adam Sowerby, and the other denizens of Bishop’s Lacey. But despite these nitpicks, I think this book got the most important thing exactly right: the reactions of Flavia and her father and sisters to Harriet’s death. This novel is a story of bereavement and grief much more than a mystery story, and in that light I think it’s fantastic. If you’re a fan of this series, you definitely won’t want to miss this installment! I can’t wait to see what’s next for Flavia and the rest of the de Luces.