Alan Bradley, a Canadian 70-year-old first time novelist, has written a witty murder mystery set in 1950’s England. It is narrated by an 11-year-old girl named Flavia de Luce, who has a passion for chemistry and a penchant for poison.
I loved this novel. The sequel, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag has just been released, and Bradley has a six book series deal planned.
The first person narrative is fantastic from Flavia’s point of view. Flavia is a smart, confident, know-it-all who keeps a notebook of scientific observations and has set up her own chemistry lab on her family’s property. When she finds a dead body in the cucumber patch, she isn’t so much scared as she is completely interested. It’s like reading Agatha Christie and Alexander McCall Smith in one novel. Flavia is a fantastic child narrator, with all the wit and intelligence of an adult. The following passage from the novel describes Flavia’s character quite well:
I made the Girl Guide three-eared bunny salute with my fingers. I did not tell him that I was technically no longer a member of that organisation, and hadn’t been since I was chucked out for manufacturing ferric hydroxide to earn my domestic service badge. No one had seemed to care that it was the antidote for arsenic poisoning.
I will be following this series eagerly.