I have never considered myself much of a mystery fan. Growing up, I watched my middle sister Virginia devour volumes of Nancy Drew and Ian Fleming’s entire oeuvre of James Bond adventures. I preferred disaster tomes like Walter Lords’ A Night to Remember about the Titanic, and I was smitten with a history of the circus that listed all the oddities P.T. Barnum brought to the spotlight — Jenny Lind, Tom Thumb and Eng and Chang the conjoined brothers. I was the lone teen reader among my peers of Nicholas and Alexandra and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. No wonder I didn’t date.
As an adult I didn’t catch the spark for the ‘who-done-its’ that perpetually eat up prime real estate on best-seller fiction lists. But Alan Bradley has changed that with his terrific Flavia de Luce Mystery series. If there is a softer side to murder, this is it. And it’s a lot of fun for the reader.
In 2009 he introduced Miss de Luce, an 11-year-old girl sleuth who draws trouble to her like metal filings to a magnet. She is the gas for the engine in his charming series that began with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and continues in The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag.