Speaking from Among the Bones

Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce gets more clever with age. In Speaking from Among the Bones, the fifth mystery in Alan Bradley's popular series (with several more promised), Flavia is still the smartest prepubescent sleuth in the history of whodunits.

Something's up in the crypt at St. Tancred's Church, and the organist has gone missing. St. Tancred himself is being exhumed, and Flavia is not welcome at the proceedings. But how can she resist? Using her wile, wit, wide-eyed innocence ("After all, I was christened Flavia Tancred de Luce," she insists) and reliable skills as a chemist, Flavia works her way beneath the village church and into the double mystery: What happened to the organist? And why all the secrecy surrounding the tomb?

Flavia narrates her adventures, informing readers that the Christmas holidays were "just a couple of months ago," a reference to I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, the fourth in the series. Fans will nod, while newcomers to Bradley's British cozies easily catch on. The familiar characters return: Father de Luce; Mrs. Mullet, housekeeper of the perennially endangered Buckshaw estate; the badgering older sisters, Feely and Daffy; and Inspector Hewitt, once again certain he'll solve the crime but forced to defer to Flavia. The youthful detective also joins forces with a new character: Adam Sowerby, fellow sleuth and chemist, who knows how to use a daffodil when necessary.

All ends well, as Flavia's adventures do. But this time, there's a clifhanger ending. Stay tuned. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco

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