Twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce is out of her element in this, the seventh installment, of Alan Bradley's series. The start of the novel has her on a ship, mid-way across the Atlantic, bound for Canada, where she will be starting her education at Miss Bodycote's Female Academy. She barely has time to settle into her new home when a body comes tumbling down from the chimney, wrapped in the Union Jack, with an animal scull replacing its head. Her homesickness is gone at the prospect of a mystery to solve and she gets right to work. Her investigations reveals students gone mysteriously missing from Miss Bodycote's, a secret society, and a teacher with a murderous past.
I enjoyed this book immensely. Flavia's personality was just what we've come to know and love - she's precocious, quick on her feet, and not afraid of anything. The development of the other characters - her classmates, her teachers, and even the headmistress - were all wonderful and it was very easy to distinguish one from another. Miss Bodycote's school and the surrounding city are described in wonderful detail, right down to the general store run by the woman who is entertained by Flavia's "charming" accent.
I was a bit disappointed, however, in how disjointed this book felt from the rest of the series. Without access to her attic laboratory, Flavia finds herself without the solace of chemistry for most of the book. The mystery itself sometimes seems illogical, and I'll also freely admit that I missed Buckshaw! The characters, the setting, the dependable Dogger and Gertrude...the story arcs that had been built up over the series were seemingly abandoned, and this new setting didn't feel quite like home. Things were touched upon briefly during this novel that I wish had been expanded upon, namely Harriet's time at the school and her participation in the Nides, the secret society that Flavia is there to become a part of as well. Secrets were not elaborated on, and I hope that Bradley plans on returning to those story lines for more detail.
In the end, I love this series and so I enjoyed the book. I can't wait, however, for Flavia to be back at Buckshaw, where she belongs.
(I received an advanced copy from Bantam via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)