It's not really recommended to start a series of books with #7. Unless the author takes a great deal of trouble at the start of each book (as J.K. Rowling did at the beginning of each Harry Potter story), there's a lot of backstory and character development that it's taken for granted that readers are already aware of.
So when I got a digital Advance Reader Copy of Alan Bradley's latest installment in his Flavia de Luce mysteries, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, I was hesitant. But the series had been highly recommended, so I dove in and I certainly don't regret it.
It is the early 1950's. Flavia de Luce is 12 years old, and being sent from her home in England to school in Toronto. Flavia is precocious, highly intelligent and creative, and has a passion for chemistry, particularly poisons. She's been involved in several murders, so it's no surprise when, on her first night at her new school, she and another girl discover a corpse stuffed up the chimney of her room.
And that's not all. Apparently, several girls have gone missing at the school over the past few years. Could the body be one of them? Of course Flavia must find the answer.
I generally find child detectives pretty implausible, but Bradley makes it work, and Flavia is just a delight. Clever and sometimes obnoxious, witty and insightful, incredibly real in all her longings for home and desire to belong and most of all in her dogged persistence to find the truth.
Yes, starting on book 7 meant I was in the dark about a number of plot elements, but I've already ordered the first book in this series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and am looking forward to filling in the gaps in Flavia's story.