Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley: A review

It wasn't actually a "brinded" cat that mew'd; it was a calico. But literary license is allowed, I suppose, since the writer seems to base all of his titles on nursery rhymes. 

Flavia de Luce is Alan Bradley's charming heroine and I have enjoyed reading his tales about her from the beginning. When he published his first book in the series, he came through Houston on a book tour and my daughter, who was then a librarian with the Houston Public Library, met him and she recommended his book to me. I've looked forward to reading each entry in the series since then, but I had last visited with Flavia more than three years ago, in January 2015, when I read As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. She was brought to mind again recently when I needed a less than serious distraction from the news of the day.

In Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd, Flavia is now twelve years old and she has been sent home from the school in Canada to which her family had sent her, perhaps in hopes of teaching her some decorum. If so, their hopes were dashed. Now Flavia has been sent home to England once again to the family's country estate of Buckshaw in the little village of Bishop's Lacey. Flavia is delighted. But when the ship docks in England, instead of the joyous welcome home that she had anticipated, she is met by her father's factotum, Dogger, who informs her that her father is in hospital and is gravely ill with pneumonia. He is not being allowed visitors.

Even so, Flavia is happy to be home and distracts herself from worry about her only parent with squabbles with her two older sisters and her insufferable cousin, Undine, who now lives with the family. When her friend, the vicar's wife, asks her run an errand and deliver a message to a wood-carver who is needed to do some work at the church, Flavia jumps on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, and heads out, regardless of snow and wind and cold winter weather. It's the middle of December after all and cold weather is good for you.

Arriving at the wood-carver's home and getting no response to her knocks, she tries the door and finds it unlocked, so, of course, she enters...and finds the wood-carver hanging upside down from a contraption strapped to a door. He is quite dead. 

Was it murder? There are no obvious signs of violence; nevertheless, it is in Flavia's nature to be suspicious. She seems to have an uncanny ability for finding dead bodies and there is nothing that fascinates her more. She does love a nice juicy murder. Soon, she's off and investigating and finding a much more complicated story than that which appeared on the surface.

Flavia de Luce is sort of a female Harry Potter, not exactly a wizard but definitely a prodigy with a natural talent for chemistry and an insatiable curiosity. Bradley's books are not really marketed as YA, but I can definitely see how they would appeal to that age group. She is an engaging and winsome character whose antics can be enjoyed by any reader regardless of age.

This story has a shadow hanging over it, cast by Flavia's father's serious illness, but in the end, we know that the de Luces will maintain their best British stiff upper lips and carry on.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars  


  1. How cute! This series, with her enchanting heroine, is definitely a respite from the news. ;-)

    1. She's a very precocious child and reminds me of other children I have known and loved.

  2. Another series on my someday list, as my granddaughters used to call it.


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