Golden Tresses

Golden Tresses

“Before the golden tresses of the dead…” is the beginning of a Shakespearean sonnet about grave robbers, thus it reveals a bit about Alan Bradley’s 10th book in the Flavia de Luce series, “The Golden Tresses of the Dead.”

Much to my delight, Flavia is back on familiar ground at Buckshaw, the family home that now belongs to her. If you’ve not met the preteen detective and chemist extraordinaire Flavia, and you enjoy little mysteries in 1950 English villages and witty banter, I encourage you to join in the fun. There are murmurings online that this is the final installment. I sincerely hope they are wrong. I urge newcomers to begin with the first book and follow the delightful girl as she grows and matures.

Flavia is still reeling from the death of her beloved father when she has to deal with older sister Ophelia (“Feely”) marrying and moving away. She is soon distracted when Feely finds an embalmed finger while cutting her wedding cake.

This is the perfect opportunity for the newly formed Arthur W. Dogger & Associates—Discreet Investigations to snag its first professional investigation. Although Dogger has kept an eye on Flavia in the past, they are true partners now, with Dogger helping to guide her in some of the finer points of investigation and sharing his keen observations. Their interactions are charming.

As seems to happen in all of Flavia’s adventures, one puzzle leads to more. This time, they are hired by the daughter of a famous homeopathic doctor to recover some missing letters. Then, two odd missionaries arrive at Buckshaw seeking lodging. The game is afoot and Flavia and Dogger are on it!

It is amazing to me that Bradley can pack these delightful novels with so much knowledge—covering literature, anthropology, history and, most of all, Flavia’s favorite, chemistry and poisons.

I have to include a sample of the wonderful wit that pops up throughout the book. Like most detectives, Flavia has problems with the local authorities:

“I have noticed that it’s the same with all petty officials. Once they catch you breaking a rule, they lecture you, not just until the cows come home, but until the cows have eaten dinner, hauled on their flannel pajamas, climbed into bed, listened to a bedtime story, put out the lights, and drifted off to sleep to dream of pastures new.”

I adore Flavia.

Sandy Mahaffey is former Books editor with The Free Lance–Star.

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