If you recall (and do I even need to say it? I know you don't :)) I enjoyed the first one despite its mystery genre, because I found Flavia delightful and the setting, 1950's English country, just like home :) (well home a century late, maybe :)) But Sarah Sp. had told me that Yaffa had told her that the second wasn't quite as good, and anyway, in a book that owed so much to the freshness of its narrator, the second one would be hard pressed to deliver. That's not particular to this series; in general, you can get away with less of a plot in the first one, because whatever little twist led you to write the book can carry the day on its own. But by the second, you usually need to bring something extra, or it's just more of the same. Anyway, I was ready to be forgiving of #2 not quite living up to #1. And specifically, I was kind of expecting the mystery to take more of a central role than it had in the first one, which of course means more of the book in which I am less interested.
To my surprise, I found that the mystery was not in fact front and center at all. Well… that's not quite true, the book did revolve around the newly introduced characters of Nialla, Rupert, the Inglesbys, Dieter, etc. all of whom are involved in the whodunit. But the murder doesn't even happen until about a third of the way in, and for most of the rest of the book, Flavia isn't directly after the culprit. She's chasing around answers here, there, and everywhere, but not in a particularly directed manner. Just your usual (or unusual) nosy eleven year old. So in that sense, it doesn't even feel much like a mystery. Just good old suspicious Flavia, poking her nose in everyone's business. And doing a great job of it too! That's really the main reason to like Flavia, she is a very capable girl. Thinks on the fly, puts it all together, and pretty near unflappable. She's just fun to hang around. Especially in short twenty minute bursts of reading, which is mostly how I got this book finished. And it's a sign of how much I enjoyed it that it wasn't easy to close the book at the of the train ride, especially as I got closer to the end.
Yesterday, I was almost thinking of reading it at work, it was getting so exciting. But then, I didn't. And when I finally read the last few chapters last night, it was kind of weird… because it never really ended. The mystery was solved, but it stayed in the background as much as it had been the whole time. Flavia just figures it out, tells Inspector Hewitt the whole story and that's it. Now the truth is, this was better than repeating the first book's tense and dangerous climax when the culprit nabs Flavia, but it was so non-eventful I was like… that's it? There's not another chapter? A bit of a letdown…. but only for a second. And that I got over it. It's not like I was left without closure. It was just that the book never really reached the peak of the crescendo I was expecting. But that didn't make the rest of the climb less captivating.