Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd (Flavia de Luce)
by Alan Bradley
Review by Gayle Surrette
Delacorte Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345539960
Date: 20 September 2016 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Flavia de Luce has returned from Canada after helping to solve another crime. She's anxious to reconnect with her family and friends -- she's missed her home and her laboratory. But she arrives to learn that her father is ill--in fact, he's in the hospital. It's too late to visit now so she must wait until morning. However, in the morning she's told he's too tired for visitors.
Home is not as welcoming as she'd hoped. She feels cut off from her father. Her sisters are much as they ever were and her cousin Undine is as frustrating as she remembered. Thinking that her hen, Esmeralda, would appreciate a visit, she learns the hen is dead--butchered. It was nearly Christmas, a time usually celebrated and over-decorated for, and yet there was not a single hint of the season in her home.
Flavia's one remaining hope for normality is her dear friend, the vicar's wife, Cynthia, who while also ill, is willing to listen to her. Cynthia needs to deliver some papers to Mr. Sambridge in Stowe Pumfet. Since she's ill, Flavia overs to take the papers, as it's within a reasonable distance on her trusty bicycle, Gladys.
At the home of Mr. Sambridge, Flavia finds the door unlocked and no one answers her hails. She decides to investigate and finds Mr. Sambridge dead, hanging on the back of his bedroom door. The one thing Flavia can't resist is investigating a possible murder.
Of course it must be reported to the proper authorities. First though she takes time to look for clues, being very careful not to contaminate the scene. From here things get a bit intense as Flavia seems to pick up bits and pieces of information just in the course of living her life in a small village. For other information, she actually seeks out sources to learn more about the victim hoping that will lead to possible suspects.
Meanwhile, she's having a difficult time getting anyone to tell her about her father's condition and somehow she's not allowed to visit him. She's wondering if she should take things into her own hands and force her way into the hospital or would that make things worse.
It is often difficult to remember that Flavia de Luce is only twelve-years-old. She's the point of view character and often seems much much older than her years until she totally misreads or misunderstands some action or behavior that any adult would have instantly recognized. She slowly works her way through the information she's gathered to puzzle out the murderer and the motive.
The setting and characters are very appropriate for the time period. Reading any of the Flavia de Luce books is like stepping back in time and being accompanied by the perfect guide, Flavia, whose observations on her family, neighbors, and the area in which she lives are insightful, sometimes humorous, and often painfully truthful.
The mystery is, as usual, convoluted, clever, and with enough twists and tension to keep the pages turning. Things will be changing for Flavia and I look forward to Bradley's next Flavia de Luce mystery.