This was back on form after the disappointment of the last one. This series still isn’t perfect for me, but I find it really comforting and enjoyable anyway. I think I just need to let this series be itself and stop wanting it to be what it’s not. The mysteries and plot twists are always going to be predictable. Flavia is always going to pursue random avenues of inquiry that somehow magically lead her to answers. There is probably always going to be a misbalance between the mystery plot and the character plot. And Bradley’s sense of narrative is always going to be a little bit off (seriously, wtf is up with that Canada adventure going NOWHERE). There continues to be an implausible amount of corpse discovery in her life.
But the good things are still good, and keep me coming back. Flavia is delightful. I love her so much. I love her brilliance and her sense of wonder in the face of darkness and death. I love seeing her grapple with growing up (which Bradley actually allows her to do, instead of holding her in some interminable childhood forever). I love seeing her interactions with family and close friends, and how her dynamic with them changes as she gets older and begins to understand more about what people aren’t saying. I love how cozy these books are, even the duller ones have a certain inescapable charm. I love the way the real world creeps in in the form of poverty, social class, war trauma, death (natural causes). It lends the fairytale aspect of Flavia’s life a little more verisimilitude.
And this one was one of the better ones (although still not as good as #6). Flavia finds the body of a local wood carver when she’s running an errand, and of course can’t help herself from digging into his life (which then leads her to solve the murder). And her father is hospitalized for the majority of the book, so there’s a running undercurrent of worry as she’s scurrying about.
I typically end my reviews of these books expressing some sort of hope that my issues with them would be resolved, but I have to stop doing that, because it’s not going to happen, and only causes everyone involved suffering and annoyance. I think book nine is out later this year. I’ll be there.