Banished from Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in far-off Toronto (As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, 2015, etc.) and sent back home to England, Flavia de Luce wants nothing more than to hug her beloved father. Fate has other plans.
No sooner has unapologetically precocious Flavia arrived back in Buckshaw, the home her late mother left her, than she’s informed in hushed tones that the impecunious Col. Haviland de Luce is in hospital with pneumonia. Before she can tear herself away from Ophelia and Daphne, the hateful older sisters she’s dubbed Feely and Daffy, and her recently discovered cousin Undine to go visit him and spread her distinctive brand of cyanide cheer, a routine errand she agrees to run for Cynthia Richardson, the vicar’s wife, brings her face to knees with woodworker Roger Sambridge, who’s been crucified upside down on the bedroom door of his cottage. Instead of screaming and fleeing like any other 12-year-old, Flavia naturally investigates. The most interesting discovery she makes is a set of Oliver Inchbold’s children’s books, which would seem far from the obvious reading material for an unmarried 70-year-old man. Her quest to ascertain what they were doing in Sambridge’s library leads Flavia to a series of increasingly revealing conversations with Carla Sherrinford-Cameron, whose signature was in one of the books; to rumors that both Carla’s late aunt, Louisa Congreve, and Sambridge neighbor Lillian Trench are witches; and to a past crime that’s been cunningly concealed from Flavia’s pal Inspector Hewitt—everywhere, in short, but to her father’s bedside.
Although she seems for quite a while to be relying on good contacts and good luck, Bradley's preteen heroine comes through in the end with a series of deductions so clever she wants to hug herself. So will you.