Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Review: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

Book Cover: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley
Published 6 January 2015 by Delacorte Press
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Hard on the heels of the return of her mother’s body from the frozen reaches of the Himalayas, Flavia, for her indiscretions, is banished from her home at Buckshaw and shipped across the ocean to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, her mother’s alma mater, there to be inducted into a mysterious organization known as the Nide.

No sooner does she arrive, however, than a body comes crashing down out of the chimney and into her room, setting off a series of investigations into mysterious disappearances of girls from the school.

My Thoughts

I kept wavering between 4 and 5 stars for As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. I'm a real fan of Flavia de Luce, the young protagonist in Alan Bradley's series of mystery novels. The prior book was released in January 2014, and I checked it out of the library the day it arrived. In fact, I put myself on the reserve list before the library had even received their copy. I flew through that book, reading The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches in only two days.

Browsing through NetGalley, I was excited to see that a new volume in Flavia's story was due in January 2015. You can imagine how thrilled I was when my request to receive a review copy of As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust was approved. Due to business and family commitments (“life” ?) it actually took me four days to read this book and I enjoyed every minute of it. As I have time to think about it, however, I don't think this was the very best of the series, so let's settle for 4 stars.

So, what is As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust all about? Flavia has been bundled off to boarding school in Canada—the very same school that her mother had attended as a girl. In her usual style, Flavia pretty much does her own thing rather than falling in line with the schedule of school and dormitory life. Of course there's a murder and Flavia is leading the charge to identify the dead woman and determine how she died. Along the way, it is revealed that a number of students have mysteriously disappeared from the school. There is also a secret society (or two?) operating in the boarding school. More mysteries for Flavia to solve.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust contains the usual Flavia quirks: her passion for chemistry, obsession with the processes of decay and decomposition, and application of scientific method to problems of any type. Those who have been reading the entire series will enjoy seeing Flavia mature through her new experiences. Readers will also miss the setting of Buckshaw, the village of Bishop's Lacey, and the inhabitants of both.

I said that I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I did. But I found myself feeling dissatisfied—particularly in the second half of the book. For example, Flavia is very lonely and perks up a little bit when she finally gets a letter from Dogger, six weeks after leaving home. But, nowhere does the author tell us that she is sending off letter after letter to her family. No. Instead, Flavia says, “After queuing day after day at the wicket, and being turned away each time letterless, I had simply given up waiting,” concluding “...no one on this particular planet gave a rat’s whisker for Flavia de Luce.”

Fortunately, her loyal readers do care, and care deeply for Flavia. I'm hoping that this book is the launching pad for further episodes of Flavia's story.


Note that I received a free copy of As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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