Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book review - Alan Bradley's Speaking from Among the Bones

Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
ARC Provided by the Publisher
Published by: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: January 29th, 2013
Format: Kindle, 400 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Bishop's Lacey is in a state of excitement. As Easter draws near there is an excavation underway at St. Tancred's. Five hundred years ago their patron Saint died and was buried in the church at Bishop's Lacey. It was rumored that he was buried with The Heart of Lucifer, a diamond as big as a turkey egg that had healing powers and was the centerpiece of a staff made from holy wood. But only a few people know of this legend, and they obviously wanted to find it prior to the official excavation, because once the exhumation begins, it is obvious that someone has been there before. The most obvious sign of disruption being the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church's organist of the luscious locks who has been missing for some weeks.

Of course it had to be Flavia who found Mr. Collicutt... she had stumbled upon the tunnel that the nefarious gang was using to access the tomb... and the thought of long undisturbed bones was too much of a temptation to the precocious poisoner. But the discovery of the body brings many people to the scene. Besides the cops there's Adam Sowerby, who as a Flora-archaeologist, is on hand to see if there are any viable seeds buried with St. Tancred... but he also happens to dabble in PI work, knows Flavia's father from long ago, and is so mysterious, he might, just might, be an agent for the Queen. Many close scrapes and a few startling revelations later, including an effigy weeping blood, leads to the biggest surprise of Flavia's life. Her mother Harriet has been found.

While this book was, I am sure, just as wonderful as the previous volumes, the murder, the mysteries, the daring escapes, the thugs, the diamond, all of it top hole, but all of it vanish into a dim memory buried deep in the fog, like the mist taking over the sinking churchyard at St. Tancred's when you read that last line: "Your mother has been found." The rest of the book just whooshed out of my head at this stunning revelation. Harriet has been found! My mind started working overtime, is it possible she is still alive, or is she dead... could her estate be settled, can Buckshaw be saved? All these what ifs pushed everything else out of the way. The sheer torture of having to wait to find out the answers is a burden that I don't know if I can bear, but bear it I must.

The working title for the fifth volume of Flavia's adventures was Seeds of Antiquity, and I rather wish that this had remained the title. The books duel yet connected themes of family/heredity and history seem interconnected with the word antiquity, whereas bones, though they have a story to tell, are far less romantic. The knowledge that Flavia is accumulating with regard to her mother and her own place within Buckshaw makes her more a part of the family then Feely and Daffy would like. Flavia is her mother reborn, no matter what any sibling has tried to convince her of in the past. What we are comes from our parents, the madness or genius that is inherited, much as the burden of Buckshaw is inherited. To be able to embrace all that we are while also loosing it, with the imminent sale of the house, shows who we truly are. But how sad for Flavia, to be coming into all this knowledge while also learning that she will loose her connection to this past.

The past though can live again, and it is through Adam Sowerby the Flora-archaeologist that the most interesting aspects of history live. Sure there is the history of the town and St. Tancred, the history of Buckshaw and Harriet, but all this is dry history, it was alive, it is no more. That history is gone. What Adam Sowerby does is bring history to life. By going to ancient burial sites he examines the remains, because most people throw flowers into graves. He then takes these seeds and tries to revitalize them. To bring back seeds long gone, plants that are no longer part of this time and place. To be able to breath life into something long dead. It is a bit like playing god. But it's the closest thing we have to time travel. We can't go into the past, but here is a very small part of the past that might be brought back to us. A bit of magic in a world of murder.


Newer Post Older Post Home