This review will be quick as it is for the 6th installment of Alan Bradley's captivating Flavia de Luce Mysteries, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches.
Interestingly, this is one of the few mystery series for which I have read and reviewed every book. So I will not waste time here with back story. For that, click here to bring up the previous five Flavia reviews.
This book takes place just a few weeks after Speaking From Among the Bones and is mostly concerned with the shocking information that was revealed at the end of that book-- the discovery of the body of Flavia's mom Harriet.
Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is much different book in tone, scope, and purpose than the five that came before. The novel is mostly centered around what happened to Harriet and why it matters to all of England in general, and Flavia in particular.
The novel is more spy thriller than mystery. This is a big shift in the direction of the series. In fact, in my review of Speaking From Among the Bones I did note that I was sensing a change in the tone of the series, but it is more than that.
The way this novel ends, everything about the series, from the setting, to the focus (spying more than mystery) to the tone (much more serious) has changed. I am excited about the change because it paves the way for our 11 year old, precious chemist to finally being to grow into a woman. The shift and the explanation behind it also explains why Flavia was allowed to be so eccentric and independent, which will silence some critics who find her too precocious and without enough supervision in the past.
In short, Dead in Their Vaulted Arches marks the end of an era for Flavia the girl detective, but begins a brand new journey for her as a British Spy. The series and Flavia are coming of age together. And, while things are getting more serious, I would still call this a moderately cozy series.
However, from a RA perspective, you need to be aware that your Flavia fans will either love and embrace this change, or it will put them off of Flavia forever. This is the most important thing to be aware of when book talking this series to readers.
Three Words That Describe This Book: captivating, quirky, original
Readalikes: I have given many readalikes for this series over the past few years. You can pull them all up with this link, but I also feel like a new book in the series means I should at least give you a couple of new readalikes too. So here are 2 more series to check out if you like Flavia:
- The Joanne Kilbourne mysteries by Gail Bowen are also cozy and quirky. Kilbourn is a university professor in Saskatchewan.
- I have been reintroduced to Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot mysteries because my daughter is reading them now. Like Flavia, Poirot is an outsider, intellectual. The time frames are similar and both are cozy. Interestingly, I made this RA connections when my daughter asked me for readalikes for the Poirot mysteries and I thought of giving her Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.