Author: Alan Bradley
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Bantam Dell
Rating: 4 stars
Buy Links: Author’s page
Type: Novel in Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Banished! is how twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce laments her predicament, when her father and Aunt Felicity ship her off to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy, the boarding school that her mother, Harriet, once attended across the sea in Canada. The sun has not yet risen on Flavia’s first day in captivity when a gift lands at her feet. Flavia being Flavia, a budding chemist and sleuth, that gift is a charred and mummified body, which tumbles out of a bedroom chimney. Now, while attending classes, making friends (and enemies), and assessing the school’s stern headmistress and faculty (one of whom is an acquitted murderess), Flavia is on the hunt for the victim’s identity and time of death, as well as suspects, motives, and means. Rumors swirl that Miss Bodycote’s is haunted, and that several girls have disappeared without a trace. When it comes to solving multiple mysteries, Flavia is up to the task—but her true destiny has yet to be revealed.
Review: This well-known children’s mystery series continues with Flavia de Luce setting sail, literally, with chaperones Ryerson and Dorsey Rainsmith to the wilds of Toronto, Canada. She’s being sent to attend the famous Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy–the alma mater of her dear deceased mother, Harriet. Ryerson Rainsmith, the chairman of the Academy’s Board of Directors, and his wife Dorsey are returning home to Toronto after summering in England, and they’ve offered to accompany Flavia there. Did she want to go? No. Was she being forced? Yes! A setup for disaster if ever there was one, Flavia style.
As we travel along with Flavia aboard the R.M.S. Scythia, there’s a huge storm. Everyone else is bilious and seasick below deck while Flavia dares the decks and the thrashing seas that threaten to take her overboard. Rescued by Ryerson in the nick of time, she’s imprisoned in her cabin and avoids the odiuos Rainsmiths for the rest of the trip. Because, while Ryerson is trained to dance to Dorsey’s tune, Flavia is less inclined to do anything the bossy Dorsey commands. In fact, Flavia doesn’t like to be told what to do by anyone–which may explain her exodus to boarding school? One might think Flavia has authority issues at the tender age of 12, and one might be correct. Once they reach shore and head by train to Toronto, Flavia is dumped unceremoniously on the doorsteps of the school and handed over to the tender mercies of Headmistress Fawlthorne. It’s late at night, no one else is about, and she’s shoved into her room, the “Edith Cavill.”
Flavia is DRAMATIC, and this situation is perfect for her skill set. Not only will she get to use her considerable acting skills, but her sleuthing skills are put to use almost immediately as she’s greeted halfway through her first night with a charred body falling from the chimney onto her hearth. A fitting welcome indeed for one such as Flavia! Unfortunately, the matter is hushed up quickly, the body dispatched with efficiency, and Flavia is hardly able to discuss the case with the detective over the case. Things are different indeed here in the wilds of Canada. But just in case, she’s going to investigate on her own. Flavia is never one to leave it to those less adept at the process, and she’s at least sure that her reasoning skills are sound. And she’s discovered that there are several other mysteries at the school that need to be solved. Thank goodness at least she won’t be bored!
For Flavia, trying to fit in is hard when you are definitely meant to stand out! Slowly she starts sifting friend from foe, and those who would harm her from those who want to be her friends. Luckily, she receives several breaks. First, she’s allowed to take Chemistry–her love! A special dispensation, and Flavia’s not concerned about how they learned of her interest or too finicky to question it. Second, she receives an invitation–a secret invitation–and joins in, unwittingly starting off a chain reaction that could cause repercussions far beyond the school. Is Flavia finding her true purpose? Or is she being bamboozled into making her gravest mistake? The danger with secret societies is that you never know who your enemies are until it just might be too late. And as she tries to solve the mystery of the body in the chimney, she finds herself with more questions than answers, and with fewer people to trust with each passing day.
Left to her own wits, will Flavia save the day? Or will she be the next casualty in the strange goings on at the girls academy?
This book is delightful; a precocious girl solving murders and offering insights at a level much higher than her chronological age. Flavia’s overbearing airs and certainty that she is always absolutely correct are funny to read and create a divine caricature of a tiny Hercule Poirot, explaining to the masses how the murder was done. Well done, Flavia! And you too, Mr. Bradley.
NOTE TO PARENTS: I am only happy that she’s not mine! It’s much easier to read about a twelve-year-old who doesn’t listen than it is to live with one.