The latest charming installment of the Flavia de Luce mysteries is The Golden Tresses of the Dead.
Precocious to the point of being pugnacious, our petite prognosticator is almost perfectly perspicacious.
With her genius IQ accompanied by a morbid fascination with poisons, murder and death in general, Flavia de Luce sets out to solve all of the afterlife’s mysteries scientifically, specifically via chemistry.
Part Sherlock Holmes and part Pippi Longstocking, Flavia is a unique character. She also includes reflections of Marie Curie and even Wednesday Adams. All of those references still fail to fully encompass the entirety of her delightful character, so I’ll leave it to the lucky reader to add their own characteristics after the fact.
The latest genius in a family full of them, Flavia is the scion of the de Luce name and heir to Buckshaw, a country estate in Bishop’s Lacey.
The author has stated that the exact location of Bishop’s Lacey is “in the exact geographical centre of the reader’s mind,” although it could be Devonshire, Yorkshire or perhaps the Cotswolds.”
It is set in the aftermath of the Second World War and this has impacted the surrounding community profoundly in a number of ways.
Flavia’s father was a survivor of the death railway in Burma, as was his comrade Dogger. The two may have made it home, but parts of their psyche have been irrevocably altered by the experience.
One of Flavia’s remarkable sisters is even romantically involved with a German pilot that had been shot down over English soil. Bishop’s Lacey abounds with interesting characters and resonates with the idea of a golden age of postwar England. It also has a much-higher-than-average number of murders that makes it perfectly suited for our pre-pubescent protagonist.
The newly formed Arthur W. Dogger and associates have just been officially employed for the first time, giving Flavia an opportunity.
But quickly, their client dies mysteriously, seemingly poisoned.
Flavia is of course not deterred, pursuing the initial case and this new mystery with equal vigor.
When a shocking event shakes up her sister’s sacred nuptials, a third ball enters the juggler’s dance and Flavia has all that she and Dogger can manage.
Doggedly, Flavia and Dogger delve into a clue that appears to have a connection to smuggling, only to find out that that red herring was but the first of many. Somehow our irrepressible sleuth will win the day.
The Flavia de Luce mysteries have won numerous awards of note for the genre, including the Ellis, the Agatha and the Dagger.
Bradley’s writing is both witty and playful and is rich with literary references. Indeed the title of the book is derived from a gloomy sonnet by Shakespeare, in which he references the practice extant at the time of harvesting the resplendent hair of the freshly-deceased for wigs for actors and others.
This grisly timepiece serves as the novel’s epigraph. Sadly, it seems as though this may be the final novel in the series. This collection of cozies is not to be missed for fans of character-driven mysteries.
Jason Wiggins is owner of The Book Place at 248 Third Ave.