The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley: A review

This might be my favorite Flavia de Luce novel so far. I'm not sure it is the best; it may just be that I was in the mood for it. You know how it is when a book hits exactly the right spot at the right time. It makes for a very pleasurable reading experience.

Flavia is now a teenager and an orphan. Her beloved father had died just six months previously after her mother, the sainted Harriet, had died when she was only a baby. 

Harriet had left the family home, which had come down from her side of the family, to Flavia, the youngest of her three daughters. Now that her father is gone, a decision must be made as to what to do with that home. Flavia's bossy aunt thinks it should be sold. But it's the only home Flavia knows. How can she sell it? Besides, what would happen to the loyal family factotum, Dogger, and the family cook? And, of course, her sisters Feely (Ophelia) and Daffy (Daphne)?

Well, Feely is about to marry her fiance, Dieter, so that's her sorted. Their wedding had had to be postponed after her father's death and she has not taken the delay well. She and Dieter fight constantly.

Daffy will be headed off to college soon but not quite yet, and in the meantime...

In the meantime, the girls plus Dogger have taken a brief holiday in the village of Voglesthorpe. While drifting in a boat on the river one day, Flavia idly trails her fingers in the water and catches a floating corpse!

The body is that of a young man who was a noted local actor in the village theater. He was also the son of the local canon who two years earlier had been convicted of killing three women in a church service by poisoning the wine or wafers of the Holy Communion. The canon was a beloved figure in the community, but he was executed after being found guilty. He confessed to the crime, although there doesn't seem to have been a motive. 

And now his son is dead. Murdered. Why? Is there a connection between the crimes? These are just the sort of questions that Flavia can get her teeth into and that will distract her for a while from her sorrow and the problems of her own life.

Flavia is a talented chemist and Dogger is her equal and her assistant in performing experiments. They are extremely creative in devising those experiments. MacGyver had nothing on these two! 

We are treated to detailed and intricate explanations of the tests which they perform to prove or disprove their theories. Because, of course, they must solve the mystery of the young man's death, as well as those other deaths, the ones for which it seems the canon may have been wrongfully executed, in spite of his confession.

One of the best things about this present entry in the series is that we see the personality of Dogger being fleshed out a bit more and the relationship between him and Flavia blossom. Flavia may no longer have her father, but she has a guardian angel and stand-in father in Dogger.

And soon it seems she will have him as a partner in an agency for "discreet inquiries." That should be interesting, for when was Flavia ever discreet? 

The plot of the book was a bit weak, but its strength was the Flavia/Dogger relationship. It seems that the author has laid a strong foundation for the development and continuation of the series. I look forward to further entries.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 


  1. I will have that image of a floating corpse in my mind all day.

    1. I didn't give you the full image: The corpse's mouth was open and Flavia's fingers were inserted in that mouth. (You're welcome!)

  2. How awesome that this entry hit that sweet spot at the right time! I'm glad that despite finding the plot somewhat weak, you found Flavia/Dogger relationship a strong point to be developed further.

    1. It's been a fun series to read and there is a lot of possibility there for more adventures.

  3. that's a great cover too! Cheers


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