the grave's a fine and private place
On one hand, it felt like there was something... lacking in this, the ninth installment in the Flavia de Luce series. On the other hand, for the last couple of weeks I've been recovering from from some difficult surgery and The Grave's has been the only book I've wanted to read and relish - the only one I've wanted to read instead of sitting there staring into pain killer abyss, so whatever seems to be lacking is minor.
I've written it before and I will again - part of the reason I love this series so much is due to Bradley's allowing Flavia to grow up (literally). He also seems to be trying to take Flavia away from her home to adventures and murders in the greater world. I didn't love it when he took her to Canada but I could understand the desire to break out of the mold (only so many murders can happen in Buckshaw!) So this time, Flavia and her whole family are taking a boating trip in an attempt to heal from a recent death in the family.
Instead of an adventure, however, the flight from Buckshaw feels more like Bradley just completely dismissing or avoiding the developments of the last couple of books. That's what my concern is, I think - this feels more like a short story, a quick departure, strung out across an entire novel.
However, I'm going to forgive this (including no Buckshaw and not even a mention of Gladys!) for now because Flavia's wonderful clever voice remains:
"And what of me? What of Flavia de Luce? I would perish; I decided. Rather than submit to a lifetime locked in some dismal pigeon-infested London square with an aunt who valued the Union Jack more than her own blood, I would simply do away with myself. And as an authority on poisons, I knew precisely how to accomplish it. No cyanide for me, thank you!"
"'All he lacked was opportunity and now even that seems to have been snatched away from him.' By whom? I wondered grammatically. By fate?"
"There was no need to explain whose pockets I was talking about. That was the great thing about Dogger: He could follow my train of thought as easily as if he owned the railway."
" I was beginning to learn that in criminal investigation, as in chair design and poetry, less is more."
"I did what any intelligent girl would do: I batted my eyelashes becomingly and lowered my gaze modestly toward the floor. When God has given you a great brain and long lashes, they may sometimes be the only weapons you have at your disposal, and it is best to know how to use them effectively."
This last passage exemplifies the pleasure of the Flavia series - she revels in her intelligence, rarely questions her own brilliance and competence. She's always incredibly clever and strong and just joyful to solve mysteries with. And Dogger fans (and, really, who could possibly be a Flavia fan without also being a Dogger fan?), will relish how heavily involved he is this time.
Penguin Random House provided my advanced copy; The Grave's a Fine and Private Place is released in the states on January 28, 2018. Accordingly, the quotes above still have (a minuscule, in my experience with Bradley's ARCs) possibility of changing before the publication date.
One more thing - and this could be considered a spoiler, although it's really just my theory, so not really but stop reading now if you're concerned - after reading Bradley's acknowledgements at the end of the book, it seems a bit like this could be the last Flavia. It is definitely not stated and this is my own wild speculation, but there's something about the way the acknowledgements are written that suggests this.