Flavia de Luce hasn’t lost a sister, she’s gained a case—and what a case.
Whatever tears the preteen chemist/sleuth might have shed over her dislikable sister Ophelia’s wedding to Dieter Schrantz, whose career in the Luftwaffe was ended when his plane was shot down by Reggie Mould, the Royal Air Force pilot who’s now his best man, are squelched by two more momentous events: the appearance of Anastasia Prill, the very first client of Flavia’s professional partnership with Arthur W. Dogger, her late father’s valet, and Flavia’s discovery of a severed finger stuck into Ophelia’s wedding cake. The shared abilities of Flavia and Dogger (The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place, 2018, etc.) quickly identify the finger as that of recently deceased guitarist Mme. Adriana Castelnuovo, but the investigation of Arthur W. Dogger & Associates into the theft of the threatening letters focusing on the work of Miss Prill’s father, distinguished homeopathic practitioner Dr. Augustus Brocken, hits an unfortunate snag when someone feeds the client a fatal dose of physostigmine. Since Dr. Brocken, whose age-related infirmities have confined him to Gollingford Abbey, can offer no evidence as useful as a complete spoken sentence, Flavia and Dogger are very much on their own—except of course for Flavia’s cousin Undine, who’s even younger and snarkier than she is, and Doris Pursemaker and Ardella Stonebrook, two missionaries Flavia, now the Chatelaine of Buckshaw, agrees through gritted teeth to accept as guests under pressure from Cynthia Richardson, the vicar’s beleaguered wife. Luckily, Flavia’s inquiries also lead her to a kindred spirit: Colin Collier, the late guitarist’s son, who also turns out to be the late client’s nephew.
Perhaps the most consistently hilarious adventure of the alarmingly precocious heroine, who’s capable of confiding in her readers with a perfectly straight face: “I don’t know if you’ve ever dissected a rat, but to me, there was only one word for it: exhilarating.”