The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
Published by Orion
13th March 2014
The presumed death of Harriet de Luce in a mysterious mountaineering accident in Tibet while Flavia was only a baby cast a sombre shadow over the family, leaving Colonel de Luce a broken man and Flavia herself with no memories of her mother.
But now, astonishingly, a specially commissioned train is bringing Harriet back to Buckshaw. But rather than putting the past finally to rest, Harriet's return is set to trigger a further series of bizarre and deadly events, as a most curious group of individuals converge on Buckshaw to pay their respects.
For Flavia, a gruesome new crime to solve is only one of the mysteries confronting her, as she begins to unravel the shocking revelations of Harriet's past and in doing so discovers an extraordinary tale of espionage and betrayal that also seems to be the key to her own destiny.
“Your mother has been found.”
Nearly a week after he had made it, Father’s shocking announcement was still ringing in my ears.
Harriet! Harriet found! Who could believe it?
Harriet, who had been lost in a mountaineering accident when I was barely a year old; Harriet, whom I can’t remember seeing, ever, with my own eyes.
Numbness I’m afraid.
Sheer stupid silent numbness.
Not joy – not relief – not even gratitude to those who had found her more than ten years after her disappearance in the Himalayas.
No, I felt only a cold numbness: a cold shameful sort of numbness that made me desperately need to be alone.
This is the seventh of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce novels, and I must admit I love them all. They have a touch of I Capture the Castle about them which I totally love. Set in 1950s England, they follow the lives of widower Colonel de Luce and his three daughters Ophelia, Daphne and ‘almost teen’ Flavia in their crumbling mansion home Buckshaw. Flavia is something of a chemist, with her inherited Victorian laboratory, and an amateur detective, and she has a way of finding trouble before it finds her.
This latest book sees the remains of Flavia’s mother Harriet, being returned home after having been missing for the past ten years somewhere in the Himalayas. As with all things related to the youngest de Luce girl, even this cannot go smoothly, and as her mother’s body is brought off of the train, a man in a long overcoat whispers a coded message to her, before falling under the wheels of the engine. Add to this, a random comment from the former Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a precocious cousin by the name of Undine and you have all the ingredients for another of Bradley’s excellent novels.
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