Alan Bradley is just messing with me now, isn’t he? I was so excited in the last Flavia novel that the mystery managed to get off the ground within the first sixth of the book, but here he is back to his second-novel ways waiting until nearly halfway through for someone to kick the bucket! I spent the better part of three weeks just getting there.
But once there was death and intrigue, I was hooked, and I finished the rest in a couple hours. Bradley certainly knows how to write a thrilling story when he wants to.
Anyway, in this installment Papa de Luce, who has been generally hard up for cash through the series, has invited a movie crew to film on the de Luce estate, which is pretty cool. Even cooler, to most people, is that Fancy Pants Actress Phyllis Wyvern (think Marilyn Monroe, maybe?) is the star. Flavia spends some time getting in good with her, to the consternation of her sister, who actually wants to be BFFs with Phyllis but keeps making a fool out of herself instead.
That’s basically the first half of the novel, and it manages to be pretty interesting if not engrossing — Wyvern is awesome like a star but also haughty and entitled like a star, and she crosses that line deftly, and Flavia’s interactions with her are very telling of Flavia’s outlook on life and relationships in general.
Then someone gets all strangled and stuff and the investigation happens slowly enough for me to be like, who done it?, but fast enough that it doesn’t get bogged down in red herrings, of which there are a few.
I think I would be into a collection of “Flavia solves a mystery!” short stories and also a collection of “Flavia interacts with humans!” short stories, but I’m falling out of love with the combination of the two. And really, Flavia can only Jessica Fletcher it up so many more times before she’s just going to have to have been an 11-year-old serial killer the whole time.
Recommendation: I do love me some Flavia, but I might suggest that you stick with original Flavia unless the series gets drastically better in the future.