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When eleven year old Flavia discovers a man dying in her back yard she finds herself in the middle of a dangerous search to discover the killer. This is not a quick read. The author lays out scene-an estate in a small rural town in Britain in 1950- and plot at a measured pace and in great detail.
Although Flavia is eleven, older readers will enjoy this book. She is irreverent, resourceful, immoral, and brilliant in a way that seldom comes about unless intelligent children are left to their own devices to follow their passion-in this case, chemistry. She’s not particularly boastful of her precociousness (is that a word?) and comes across as quite kind in spite of her fascination with poisons and although she finds it difficult to express affection, having grown up without her mom and with a distant dad.
Readers might guess the murderer if not the motive before Flavia does, but by that point they are likely to be so taken with her journey they will continue to enjoy reading as she uncovers the truth.
We see her two sisters and her father through her eyes and they seem a bit caricature-like. It would have been nice to have seen her come to a deeper understanding of them by the end of the story. The climactic scene was drawn out long enough to lose its edge mid-stream and perhaps could have been more effective had it come to a head more quickly.
All-in-all, a fun and interesting read with an appealing protagonist.