Flavia de Luce is a very precocious eleven year old living in England in 1950 who does not yet seem to have any hormones but who does have an inordinately strong penchant for chemistry. She lives alone in a big house with her father; the memory of her dead mother (who died while Flavia was still a baby); two spiteful and self-absorbed sisters – Ophelia and Daphne; and a couple of servants. When Flavia finds a dead body in the cucumber patch, she is most gratified: now she has a mystery to solve, which takes on increasing importance after her own father is arrested for the crime.
Discussion and Evaluation: The mystery in this book was not all that compelling to me. But, I would also aver that the “mystery” is not really the focus of this story.
The character of Flavia and the bizarre nature of her rarified existence are the real subjects of this book. Her family is idiosyncractic in an interesting and amusing way, and Flavia herself is different than just about any other eleven-year-old you might encounter. I love when Flavia injects chemistry anecdotes into the story, or when she engages in clever wordplay with exasperated adults. I would have to say, however, that the book was insufficiently gripping for me. I suppose I would classify it as enjoyable but not awe-inspiring. “Sweet,” perhaps, is a good adjective for this book.
Published by Delacorte Press, 2009