Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd: A Flavia de Luce Novel

Adolescent sleuth Flavia de Luce returns in Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd, Alan Bradley's eighth novel starring the precocious chemist, heir to the crumbling Buckshaw estate and solver of murders too bizarre for the village constabulary. Readers who began with Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie are again rewarded with references to previous novels, but those just starting out will soon feel at home.

Flavia is ecstatic to return to the English countryside following a dismal term in Canada at her late mother's boarding school (As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust). Arriving at Southampton eager to see her dear father (and even her annoying older sisters), Flavia is deflated when only her beloved Dogger, Buckshaw's de facto butler, is dockside. Even worse, he delivers the news that Colonel de Luce is hospitalized with pneumonia.

Buckshaw is strangely somber, and housekeeper Mrs. Mullet is "trying to pretend everything is tickety-boo when it wasn't." Visits to Colonel de Luce are denied. Fleeing the gloom, Flavia hops on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, taking to the icy roads and, fortuitously, her next case: on an errand for the vicar's wife, she sees a woodcarver's body, hanging from his door! "It's amazing what the discovery of a corpse can do for one's spirits! I licked the tip of my mental pencil and began to make notes."

Researching the crime distracts her from her father's illness, and Flavia's first-person narration reveals her precocious intellect as well as her youthful vulnerability. As she shares the clues leading to the case's conclusion, she offers foreshadowing of what we hope is another chapter from Flavia's world. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

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