Poisoning prodigy Flavia de Luce’s sixth brush with murder carries her back to the most consequential death of all: that of her long-missing mother, Harriet, whose returning corpse is promptly joined by another, fresher specimen.
Harriet de Luce’s three daughters have always been told that their mother vanished from the Himalayas back in 1941. Now her body has been recovered from a glacier after 10 years and returned to them. As she waits for Harriet’s coffin to be unloaded from the train bringing it home to Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is accosted first by Winston Churchill, who asks if she too has developed a taste for pheasant sandwiches, and then by a stranger who passes on an even more cryptic warning about the Gamekeeper and the Nide. The former prime minister retreats in good order, but someone pushes the stranger under the wheels of the departing train. His death would be just the excuse Flavia needs for her latest murder investigation (Speaking from Among the Bones, 2013, etc.) if she didn’t have a bigger job to tackle: alleviating her father’s sadness by using a cocktail of forbidden chemicals to reanimate her mother’s corpse. The resulting adventures will cast new light on both Harriet de Luce and several lesser relatives; identify the mysterious American clerk who was photographed in 1939 in a room in the family home that had been shut up for 10 years; and finally send Flavia off to pastures new, presumably to spread her unique combination of precocious charm and alarming initiative within a wider field than Bishop’s Lacey.
Not much mystery and even less poison, but it’s hard to resist either the genre’s pre-eminent preteen sleuth or the hushed revelations about her family.