Friday, January 10, 2014

The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

Ok, I need to get my hands on the earlier series of this book (I didn't know it was a series, and I regret that). I'm not sure how the previous books were like, but this book strike the perfect balance between silly and serious for me.

The book is about Flavia de Luce, a precocious twin girl, as she deals with her mother coming home. Her long absent mother. Who is unfortunately coming home dead. And at the station, a man who tries to get a message to her father ends up dead. So Flavia decides to investigate, and at the same time, see if she can bring her mother back to life.

Flavia is amazingly precocious. She's smart, she's curious and she's also naive. It's from a naivety that the book gets its lightness. Her way of trying to manipulate her older sisters, how she finds younger (but perhaps more precocious) cousins annoying, that all makes her feel her age and not quite an old soul. Her observations about people are spot on, and both funny and true in the way that many children's comments are. It makes her endearing and it makes the book lighter.

And the book needs to be lighter, or the subject matter would be too grim for a tween to handle. Flavia goes through a lot, and no matter how experienced a young girl is in death, she can't expect to be cheery all the time. Personally, the times where her emotions overwhelm her were some of the most touching parts of the novel for me.

The mystery itself is quite dark and tied to the family in a rather clever way. Although this mystery is a stand-alone, I have a feeling that it'll becoming the plot of an arc. If this sounds confusing, let me try to explain. For example, in Detective Conan, one of my favourite series, the overarching plot would be about the Black Organisation. Each arc is one plot point. But in each ark, there are many, sometimes unrelated, mysteries. This book feels like it might become something like that - a series of mysteries that may or may not be related to the main arc.

Seeing that this is set after World War II, I thought that the setting was well done, and I really enjoyed the references to Singapore. The annoying cousin used to live there, and she speaks in a mix of Malay and English (the only Malay word I recognised was ibu [which means 'mother'], but then again, my Malay is atrocious).

All in all, a wonderful book. I look forward to catching up on the series and then waiting for the next book to come out.

Disclaimer: I got a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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