After 12-year-old Flavia de Luce’s last adventures, she starts out this most recent novel in the series on her way to Toronto. She has been sent away to school, to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy. Lest you worry that this will turn the series into a nonmagical version of Harry Potter, never fear.
Flavia has arrived by boat in the company of Dr. and Mrs. Rainsmith, an unlikable couple who are associated with the school. They drop her there late at night, and true to form, Flavia has discovered a corpse by morning.
Or rather, another of the boarding students by the name of Collingwood has. In an attempt to hide from the headmistress when she is out of her room at night, Collingwood crawls up the chimney in Flavia’s room, only to fall down again along with a desiccated body wrapped in a Union Jack.
Of course, Flavia is soon on the job, trying to identify the body. Several girls are rumored to have disappeared from the school. And then there is the mysterious death of Dr. Rainsmith’s first wife, even though she went overboard during a cruise, which makes the death a little harder to fit.
Although the series has taken a somewhat fantastical turn, with Flavia seemingly being groomed to be some sort of spy, she continues her inimitable self, naive enough to draw some pretty ridiculous conclusions from her evidence but smart enough to find the facts, and entirely neglectful of the school rules. I have to admit, though, that I miss Flavia’s village and the eccentric members of her family.
I’m sure I am not the only one to enjoy Flavia, an expert in chemistry who thrills over an electron microscope but still believes in Santa Claus, as we discovered a few volumes ago.