In the third installment of this bestselling, award-winning, sister-poisoning, bicycle-riding, murder-investigating, and utterly captivating series, Flavia de Luce must draw upon Gypsy lore and her encyclopaedic knowledge of poisons to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice.
“You frighten me,” the old Gypsy woman says. “Never have I seen my crystal ball so filled with darkness.” So begins eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce’s third adventure through the charming but deceptively dark byways of the village of Bishop’s Lacey. The fortune teller also claims to see a woman who is lost and needs help to get home—and Flavia knows it must be her mother Harriet, who died when Flavia was less than a year old. The Gypsy’s vision opens up old wounds for our precocious yet haunted heroine, and sets her mind racing in search of what it could mean.
When Flavia later goes to visit the Gypsy at her encampment, she certainly doesn’t expect to find the poor old woman lying near death in her caravan, bludgeoned in the wee hours. Was it an act of retribution by those who thought that the woman had abducted a local child years before? Certainly Flavia understands the bliss of settling scores; revenge is a delightful pastime when one has two odious older sisters. But how can she prove this crime is connected to the missing baby? Did it have something to do with the weird sect who met at the river to practice their secret rites?
While still pondering the possibilities, Flavia stumbles upon a corpse—that of a notorious layabout and bully she had only recently caught prowling about Buckshaw. The body hangs from a statue of Poseidon in Flavia’s very own backyard, and our unflappable sleuth knows it’s up to her to figure out the significance. Pedalling her faithful bicycle, Gladys, across the countryside in search of clues to both crimes, Flavia uncovers secrets both long-buried and freshly stowed—the dodgy dealings of a local ironworks, the truth behind the Hobblers’ secret meetings, her own ancestor’s ambitious plans—all the while exhausting the patience of Inspector Hewitt. But it’s not long before the evidence starts falling into place, and Flavia must take drastic action to prevent another violent attack.
In Bradley's outstanding third Flavia de Luce mystery set in post-WWII rural England (after 2010's The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag), precocious 11-year-old Flavia de Luce and her family pursue their different interests. Flavia's widowed father, Col. Haviland de Luce, has his philately; 17-year-old sister Ophelia ("Feely"), her music; and 13-year-old sister Daphne ("Daffy"), her books. Flavia's escape is the old, elaborately equipped chemistry lab installed by her late great-uncle, Tarquin de Luce, in their Buckshaw estate. Flavia's discovery of an old Gypsy woman who's been attacked in her wagon sends the girl off on an investigation that will reveal more of Buckshaw's secrets as well as new information about Harriet, the mother Flavia never knew. In this marvelous blend of whimsy and mystery, Flavia manages to operate successfully in the adult world of crimes and passions while dodging the childhood pitfalls set by her sisters.