The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (NetGalley)
release date: January 14, 2014
SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read a word further if you’re worried about a spoiler because on page 4 we find out about Harriet, and the rest of the novel turns on that news. I’ve included a jump break for your protection.
Father’s last words in Speaking From Among the Bones were, “Your mother has been found”, and I spent the past several months gloating and high-fiving myself for having been right all along. I knew it! And so I raced through the first pages of Alan Bradley sixth Flavia DeLuce mystery, all but craning my own neck with
the crowd gathered at the railway platform at Buckshaw halt, peering down the tracks for the train bringing Harriet home. Until–“gently, almost tenderly …
a wooden box was handed out to the double column of waiting men, who shouldered it and stood motionless for a moment …it was a coffin which … gleamed cruelly in the harsh sunlight. In it was Harriet. My mother.” And there went my smugness, right there.
Despite the fact that Harriet has come home to lie in state in Buckshaw and her funeral will take place in a just a few days, this little chemist-cum-detective has big plans, although a they might be a tad macabre. Because it’s Flavia’s belief that she can resurrect Harriet (who had been found frozen in a Himalayan glacier) with a simple bit of adenonsine triphosphate and a pinch of carboxylase hydrochloride. So we watch–with horror? with heartache?–as Flavia pries the lid off her mother’s casket and tenderly kisses her cold corpse. Poor lost little girl.
But even in the midst of all her sorrow, Flavia meets her match in a six-year-old visiting cousin, Undine, who speaks Malay and has a vocabulary–and energy–that rivals her own. She finds, develops, and watches an old home movie of Harriet and her dad picnicking on the lawn of Buchshaw; she flies over Buckshaw not once, but twice, in Harriet’s famous two-seater Blithe Spirit. Aunt Felicity reveals enormous secret. And an (evil) distant cousin shows up to mourn with the family.
By novel’s end Harriet is buried and Flavia seems resolute. She’s growing up at last. And then Father drops a bombshell, just as he did in the last book–it seems Flavia is off to Canada.