Monday, November 21, 2016


In Alan Bradley’s Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd, Flavia de Luce acts completely out of character.

On her return from boarding school in Canada, Flavia lets her family keep her from seeing her father who is critically ill in the hospital. She goes day after day without going to see him.

I can’t visualize Flavia doing that. She takes her beloved bicycle Gladys and peddles around to the connecting villages. She finds the body of an arthritic wood carver strung up in the apparatus he invented to stretch his aching back. She even peddles to the train station and goes to London to find clues in the murder.

But she can’t peddle to see her father no matter who tries to keep her from doing so. That's just not Flavia.

Flavia interviews the witch across the street from the house where she found the corpse. She untangles the strange history of the woodcarver and his family. She figures out how the cat which mewed to come into the room with the corpse gives her a major clue. She even puts up with a new member of the family. But she doesn’t go to see her father.

In case you can’t tell, that bothered me.

Aside from that, I found Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd to have everything I admire about the Flavia de Luce books. The book has her chemical brilliance, her reference to all kinds of literary works, her way with words, and her strong determination.

It also has wonderful passages to quote, as these books always do. Here are a few--

“...the perfect crime is extremely rare, [and] so is the perfect solution. In real life, we are never able to dot every i, cross every t, or tease out every last strand of what we think of as evidence.”


“It’s amazing what the discovery of a corpse can do for your spirits.”


“Brains, in reality, do not go clickety-clickety-click from A to B to C to D and so forth, rushing like a train along the rails, until at the end, with a happy “Toot-toot!” they arrive at their destination, Z, and the case is suddenly solved. Quite the contrary. In reality, analytical minds such as my own are forever shooting wildly off in all directions simultaneously. It’s like joyously hitting jelly with a sledgehammer; like exploding galaxies; like a display of fireworks in which the pyrotechnic engineer has had a bit too much to drink and set off the whole conglobulation all at once, by accident.”


And finally, “Real life is messy, and it’s probably best to keep that in mind. We must learn never to expect too much.”

I could go on quoting from there. But the last quote says a lot about this book. Even the best books are imperfect. Real life is messy and tragic. And so was Alan Bradley’s Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I haven't read any of these book and even I find it odd.

Joe Barone said...

It is even more odd since Flavia is not one to conform.

R. T. (Tim) Davis said...

Thank you for introducing me to this series. I haven't read any of these books, but your posting/review leads me to believe I should not start with this one but elsewhere. Please tell me your recommendation(s).

Joe Barone said...

Tim, The first book in the series was The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. It is a very well known and generally well liked book. It might be the one to start with. These are Y/A books, books for pre-teens, but many adults like myself have liked them too. You can search this site using the search function at the right. I have commented to several of these books.

Joe Barone said...

Tim, I took my own advice and read my previous comments. I seemed to have especially liked THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES.

Joe Barone said...

My wife disagreed with me on what I said in this blog. She said she understood how Flavia could have been so confused and emotionally distraught that she wouldn't do what she might usually do and go to the hospital no matter what. My wife liked the book but found it sad. The next book should be very interesting.