This was fun, I did enjoy it--but I expected to love it, and in the end I rather doubt I'll be seeking out more books in this series--thus only three stars. I'm rather shocked I didn't love it--I'd expect this book to be exactly my cup of tea. A cozy mystery, set in 1950s England, with an old ancestral pile and a nearby village populated with quirky characters that you could just imagine Miss Marple doing her sleuthing in.
The narrator and amateur sleuth here though is no elderly spinster. Flavia de Luce is eleven years old--going on thirty? Not that she doesn't have her moments of being a child. Indeed, much of the time she struck me as a brat and I felt sorry for her sisters or anyone who'd have to deal with her. She's exasperating--and sometimes endearing--and how much you love (or don't love) the book will depend on how much you buy into and love her character and voice. This certainly isn't the kind of mystery that hangs on a clever twist. The villain is really quite predictable--Bradley is no Christie or Tey. And despite the praise this book has received, I wouldn't quite rank this with literature in the way of mysteries by Dorothy Sayers or Umberto Eco. It's well-written, yes--I was never jarred out of the narrative, there's humor here too. But whatever it is that hooks me on an author or series at first outing, this didn't quite have it.
Mind you, Flavia did grow on me through the book. At first I saw only the brat--over the course of the book I saw more of the vulnerable child. Even if in the end she's more worthy of being called "brilliant but scary" than Hermione Granger. Maybe a bit too much of both. She might grow on me in future books--if anyone has read further into the series, I'd love to know if you think the books got better, more compelling or moving. Certainly for a debut book, this is a strong outing. Worth a try--I certainly can understand why others loved it.