Speaking From Among the Bones
A Flavia De Luce Novel
Delacorte Press, 2013
From the back of the book: “Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sister’s diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of Saint Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s no such thing as an open-and-shut case.”
You’ve probably guessed by now that I am a fan of Flavia de Luce. She is funny, brilliant, bold and a real smart-a**. But she is also vulnerable to her sister’s vicious and hurtful attacks – so much so that she alternates between wanting to poison them and wanting to love them. She never really goes through with any of her diabolical plans, but it’s fun to read her plans for them. Her true love are poisons and she thinks about them all the time. I have to share this quote with you, it’s so “Flavia”: “Whenever I’m a little blue I think about cyanide, whose color so perfectly reflects my mood. It is pleasant to think that the manioc plant, which grows in Brazil, contains enormous quantities of the stuff in its thirty pound roots, all of which, unfortunately, is washed away before the residue is used to make our daily tapioca.”
In this book, Flavia cycles her way through the English countryside, crawls through an open grave into a tunnel that goes under the graveyard to the church and, of course, is almost killed (she rescues herself!). Through it all she keeps herself motivated even when the police tell her to stay away, when her sisters bring her to tears and her father forbids her to leave the house. The murder itself happens before the book opens, there are a couple acts of mild violence and some shocking news at the very end of the book (no spoilers!). As always, this book is for middle-grade readers of all ages, especially those who like strong female characters and cozy mysteries.
Reserved for the Cat
An Elemental Masters Novel
Daw Books, 2007
Ninette, a young dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet is let go for being too good and upstaging the company’s star dancer. Destitute in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris could only mean prostitution for unless she can go to work for another dance company. Unfortunately she is unable to find work, so having nothing else to lose, she follows the instructions of the tabby cat she has been looking after. The cat, Thomas, is able to communicate with her through thoughts and guides her to Blackpool, England where, through a series of magical events, hard work and a bit of lying, she becomes known as the Russian prima ballerina, Nina Tchereslavsky. Unluckily for her and the magicians (aka Elemental Masters) she attracts the attention of the real Nina Tchereslavsky, who comes after Ninette with a pure evil vengeance.
This book has a lot going for it – sympathetic protagonist, talkative cat, handsome magicians all around and a thoroughly evil enemy. So I thought I would love it – but I didn’t. It feels as if the book—the story–,wants to be special, wants to be amazing and wants to be outstanding but doesn’t quite meet the mark. I’m not quite sure why – maybe it’s all the extraneous detail of some characters and virtually no detail in others. Maybe because the villain tries too hard to be evil. Maybe it’s the magicians, supposedly masters of their craft, are duped by the evil all the way through the book and spend most of the time talking about how they’re going to get the villain without ever having actually doing it. Maybe when the magicians perform their magic, the reader is in another room with Ninette for her own safety. And maybe it’s when Ninette actually defeats the evil – with virtually no help from the magicians, she gives all the credit to Thomas the Cat, because, “What knight in shining armor likes to turn up to discover the princess has rescued herself and slain the dragon?” That really bugs me. I could understand that statement if the book was published in 1957 but it was published in 2007, for goodness sake!!
Anyway, I really want to give the book a rating of 2 out of 5 daisies, but it wasn’t that bad. The story was a good one, and the author did try. Instead, I’m giving it a rating of 3 out of 5 daisies. Middle-of-the-road score for a middle-of-the-road book.
The Baker Street Translation
A Thomas Dunne Book for Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Publishing Group, 2013
Reggie Heath is a barrister in London, circa 1998, leasing the offices at 221-B Baker St for his law practice. Does the address seem familiar? It will if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes! As part of the lease agreement, Reggie must receive and answer all the mail that comes in addressed to Sherlock Holmes. (The standard response is supposed to be that Sherlock is now retired and no longer actively pursuing investigations preferring beekeeping to crime solving.) One day an old Chinese gentleman shows up at his office looking for Holmes and unwittingly involves Reggie, his girlfriend Laura, and her former boyfriend, Buxton, in a murderous plot by anarchists, kidnappers, and toymakers!!
When I picked up the book I didn’t realize it was the 3rd of a series and the characters were already established in their literary lives. As I continued to read – thrown off a little by the seemingly insignificant first couple of chapters of seemingly random events – I realized this book was not the first and felt a little short changed. The novel can stand on its own, but only just. To get to know the characters better I would have to go back and read the other books and that’s the trouble with some serials. I find nothing wrong with reading serial novels, but I do prefer if the books are able to stand on their own without their predecessors. Anyway, the mystery is good and had me guessing mostly to the end. Will I go back and read the previous 2 books? Probably not as there are over 200 other books on my to-read list and I didn’t connect with the characters. Especially Reggie – he was particularly annoying because he was too young to be such a curmudgeon. It was a good thing I read the whole thing in about 4 hours because if I had put it down I would have been hard-pressed to pick it back up!
2 out of 5 daisies
No Cats Allowed
A Cat in the Stacks Mystery
Berkley Prime Crime, 2016
I have been on the waiting list since February for this book – maybe even earlier – and was not disappointed in having to wait so long! Another cozy mystery starring the beautiful Maine Coon, Diesel and his human, Charlie Harris. Charlie works as an archivist in the library of Athena College in Athena, Mississippi cataloging rare books and collections. He loves his job and takes Diesel with him every day – in fact Diesel goes with him practically everywhere in town! The library has a new interim director, Oscar Reilly, whom everyone loves to hate. He is an obnoxious, know-it-all bully and has no problem stirring up trouble wherever he goes. Is it any wonder he gets murdered? After a couple of chapters of his noxious nonsense even I was ready for him to be killed off! As in the previous Diesel mysteries, murders just seem to follow Charlie around and he is on hand to help the local cops figure it all out.
This is another fun book to read. I had my suspensions early on who the killer might be; I think the author made it a little too obvious in this one. But that didn’t stop my enjoyment of reading the book. Even though I figured out who did it, I didn’t know why so that was a mystery until the end!! I enjoyed getting caught up with the familiar characters from the other books and reading how their literary lives are moving on. I’m hoping Charlie and Helen Louise finally get married in the next book and it’s a shame I’ll have to wait a year or so to find out!! I love this series and haven’t come across a bad one in the bunch!!
Standing in the Rainbow
Ballantine Books, Random House Publishing, 2002
A favorite author of mine is Fannie Flagg, so you can probably guess that I loved this book! It’s written in the usual sit-down-with-your-favorite-storyteller style and when the story is over, you feel like you’ve had a wonderful slice of pie and coffee after a fabulous meal – satisfied, full and happy.
Ms Flagg takes us back to Elmwood Springs, MO, the scene of her other books, Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven and Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!. It was written after Welcome, but is actually a prequel, starting in the 1940s and moving up to the 2000s. The story mainly follows local radio personality Neighbor Dorothy and her family, Doc, Anna Lee and Bobby but also all the other eccentric residents as well. There’s Aunt Elner (who is the main character of Heaven) and all her ginger tabbies named Sonny; Tot Whooten, local hair dresser with a fall-down drunk of a husband and two good-for-nothing children, who is known around town as ‘Poor Tot’; Norma, forever worried niece of Elner and her long-suffering husband, Macky. There’s a group of new characters as well, like the Oatman family who are gospel singers; Hamm Sparks, an ambitious young man who starts out by selling tractors and ends up in the governor’s mansion; and Cecil Figgs the mortuary man turned cabaret singer.
The story follows a mostly linear path which is contrary to the other Flagg books I’ve read which have gone back and forth through time. This style does make for easier reading and catching up quickly if you put the book down for a day or so – that is if you’re able to put it down!! I have nothing negative to say about the book. If you are looking for a murder thriller with gruesome and/or sexy scenes, don’t bother even glancing at the book. However, if you want a good story about people who meet life both head-on and head-buried-in-sand; if you want healthy dose of laugh-out-loud humor; if you want to cheer people on to success against all odds; if you want to feel nostalgia for an American way of life long gone; you’ll love this book. It is for those reasons I am giving it my best rating!!
Also published on Library of Cats under the non de plume BobbieSue.