While far from my least favourite novel of 2011, it's definitely one of my year's biggest disappointments. For the past few years all I've heard of is Alan Bradley: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie,
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, Red Herring Without Mustard-- 3 of the most popular Canadian titles in recent years. When I saw that there was a Christmas-themed Flavia de Luce mystery, I jumped at the chance to finally see what all the fuss was about (mine was a free review copy).
Unfortunately I still don't know. Feeling quite underwhelmed by the whole thing, I suspected that maybe this was Bradley's first misstep in the series. Perhaps it was just a poor time for me to be jumping in. Alas, reading all the positive reviews of this book-- equal to the previous three-- I'm left to conclude that the problem is with me.
I found the whole thing rather silly. A movie production crew shows up film at Flavia's family estate just before Christmas. They wouldn't wait until after? Then, conveniently, they all get snowed in on the night a murder takes place-- leaving a house full of suspects. Flavia, whom everyone seems so gung-ho about, came across as a two-dimensional caricature: a precocious eleven year old girl who compares everything to chemical reactions and who confides in Dogger, a family assistant, who seems a little too reminiscent of Punjab from Annie. Without these connections I wasn't drawn into the mystery at all and could hardly have cared less who committed the crime.
Last week I supposed, after reading an equally underwhelming Sherlock Holmes story, that mysteries are perhaps not for me. I can see how people would consider them comfortable diversions, but I'm still not sold on the genre.