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by Alan Bradley

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-385-34401-2
Publisher: Delacorte

Flavia, the cheeky 11-year-old who knows her way around a sulfurous beaker, is at it again.

Determined to prove that there is a Santa Claus, Flavia de Luce retreats to her laboratory in the upper reaches of Buckshaw, the family estate, to concoct a glue that will cement him to the flue should he try to descend on Christmas Eve. While it’s steeping, she and her tormentors, her older sisters Feely and Daffy, hear from their father, the Colonel, that financial distress has caused him to rent out Buckshaw to Ilium Films. The company will have free run of the place except for the Colonel’s study and his deceased wife Harriet’s boudoir. Learning that the fabulous actress Phyllis Wyvern will be in residence, the vicar of Bishop’s Lacey pops around to ask if she’ll star in a fundraiser for the church. She coaxes her co-star to join her in a scene from Romeo and Juliet to be staged in Buckshaw’s foyer. The performance has just finished when a snowstorm strands the villagers at the estate, with no heat, no electricity and no immediate possibility of police intervention. As one might expect, Flavia can deal with it all, even when she finds poor Phyllis dead in the middle of the night, a strip of celluloid tightly wound around her neck. Many of her showbiz colleagues had reason not to like her, from her director to her dresser to her driver. But whodunit? Inspector Hewitt will eventually get through the snow to start his inquiries, but meanwhile Flavia will piece together clues that will lead to the sticky ending she’d planned for Santa.

The plot’s murderous aspects are on the skimpy side. But who can complain when that serial charmer Flavia (A Red Herring Without Mustard, 2011, etc.) is on hand, wreathed in Tennyson and Shakespeare?