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Review: The Grave's a Fine and Private Place

Review: The Grave's a Fine and Private Place

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The Grave's a Fine and Private Place, Alan Bradley
Published January 30, 2018, Penguin Random House

Flavia is enjoying the summer, spending her days punting along the river with her reluctant family. Languishing in boredom, she drags a slack hand in the water, and catches her fingers in the open mouth of a drowned corpse.

Brought to shore, the dead man is found to be dressed in blue silk with ribbons at the knee, and wearing a single red ballet slipper.

Flavia needs to put her super-sleuthing skills to the test to investigate the murder of three gossips in the local church, and to keep her sisters out of danger. But what could possibly connect the son of an executed killer, a far too canny police constable, a travelling circus, and the publican's mysteriously talented wife?

I originally read this book last year thanks to an ARC from NetGalley. I've since been happy to get my hands on the hardcover to continue to add to my collection.

After 9 books centered around this precocious main character, you know exactly what kind of story you'll be getting. But it's the familiar (but not formulaic) style and well-loved characters that make me want to return again and again to the world of Flavia de Luce.

I assume the 9th book is not going to be the first book someone picks up, but if in case you're new to the series, start with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and enjoy the adventure from the start. A spoiler from the end of the last book is coming:

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book given that Flavia's father died at the end of the previous book. What would happen to the three sisters? How would Flavia handle the loss?
The answer turned out to be a long family vacation led by Dogger, especially meant to keep Feely occupied while she waits for her postponed wedding, and a lot of British stiff-upper-lip.

As usual, Flavia quickly finds a dead body, and discovers more than one mystery in the town they're visiting. With Flavia's father gone, we get a chance to see just how much paternal and sleuthing influence Dogger has on Flavia.

Reading these books feels like getting to visit a dear friend you haven't seen in a year, you want to spend time with them for who they've already proven to be, and you want to spend time with them to see who they've become while you were apart. This book ended with a hint at what could be a truly marvelous setup for the final book of the series. If Flavia's suggestion comes to pass, then readers will easily be able to imagine the fulfilled life that Flavia and Dogger will get to carry out long after the last page.

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