Why read a Flavia de Luce mystery? Besides the “who done it”- brain jogging action of a tightly crafted plot, when the eleven-year-old sleuth isn’t creeping through the graveyard on a foggy night in search of clues, author Alan Bradley entertains with humor, family interactions, village idiocy and diverting prose, especially his delicately crafted figures of speech. The samples cited below originated in the first five Flavia de Luce mysteries. The sixth member of the series—The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches—was published in January of 2014. Perhaps these quotes will tempt you to sample a Flavia mystery and encourage you in your own writing?
Time hung heavily on our behinds.
That smarmy, sanctimonious look in humbug humility
Like a corpulent cockroach, she waddled toward the windows.
Shreds of nibbled newsprint
To talk of guts, gore and Tetley’s tea
The seed of a smile
A flurry of freezing flakes
Scrapping clouds scudded across the moon swept along on a river of wind.
A gander at Mother Goose
I was the eighth dwarf. Sneaky.
The urge to rip into the gift like a lion into a Christian
Feely had more swains than Ulysses’ wife Penelope.
Brought to an abrupt end by tragedy and a woman scorned
She pointed like the third ghost in Scrooge and disappeared.
Instantly recognizable from Greenland to New Guinea
A great actress can never be greater than when she’s staring in her own life.
Its lamps making cornucopias of foggy yellow light in the falling snow
She tempted fate to hand her another cadaver.
I hated her seed biscuits the way Saint Paul hated sin.
Our furnace has been bearing its fangs
Ragged children of ammonia
The scent of things best not thought about
To a professional soldier death was life.
A hidden part of me was coming back to life.
Grind with whatever grist you are given.
Fingers of friendship
Clearing the paternal throat
Malapropisms (These originate with Mrs. Mullet, the cook. Look for the several allusions to her burnt offerings.)
Ink quest and poets’ mortem
It gives me dire-rear.
The four horsemen of the pocket lips
The train makes your stomach go all skew-gee.
Do that again and I’ll scream your name and your brassiere size.
No need to get owly!
I was not going to be circumlocuted.
Her eyes, like two mad raisins in her wrinkled face, never left mine.
A lie wrapped in detail like a horse pill in an apple
The conversation stopped abruptly as if it had been cut off with a scissors.
Tombstones leaned like jagged brown teeth.
Looked like a vulture sucked up by a tornado and spit back out
Curled up in the library like a prawn
We shall eat like Corsican bandits and sleep like the dead.
Saint Tancred’s went through organists like a python goes through white mice.
He followed her about like a bad smell.
The Choir: Shoulder to shoulder like singing sardines.
He looked like a cherub brought to life. And he knew it.
She hangs around in silence like a clogged drain.
His face turned slowly, like a sunflower, toward the sound of my voice.
Her mouth so tightly pursed as if pulled by draw strings
Like shaking hands with a pineapple
Had us twitching like crickets
My nose running like a trout stream
Her face drained slowly like a wash basin.
The soup of bones below: the soup of which I was about to become just another ingredient.
“Good sport” was not among the phrases that described her, “ogress” however was.
Who’s Who, a catalog of the same old dry sticks harrumphing their way toward the grave
If poisons were ponies, I’d put my money on cyanide.
That was the way with ghosts, though they appeared at the strangest times and in the most peculiar places.
If cooking were a game of darts, most of Mrs. Mullet’s concoctions would be barely on the board.
I tend to make a swine of myself when there’s cake to be had.
She never missed an opportunity to dig in a critical oar.
Grumblers are deaf to any voices but their own.
The forest of gravestones
Lifting a dramatic forefinger
These two creaking relics had walked through deep drifts of snow.
My sister was a pious fraud
Climbed into my refrigerated clothing
A pack of convalescent vampires
Compared with my life Cinderella was a spoiled brat.
Life had become a long corridor of locked doors.
Bishop’s Lacey, a notable hotbed of crime
Spider webs clanging like horseshoes against the wall
Hug him to jelly
I let her silence linger until it was hanging by a thread.
I thought about these things until my brains were turning blue.
A voice that originated somewhere down among her kidneys
She was the local equivalent of small pox.
Once Max got started (talking) you might as well put down roots
The rest of the afternoon was pretty much a thud.
Would go on talking of these events until they were toothless
It smelled as if a sick brontosaurus had broken wind
An eye like a bloodshot harvest moon
His rat faced and rat hearted wife slinking home alone through the graveyard
Photographed almost to distraction
She was short and gray and round as a mill stone
Unbearably stiff upper lipped
Have my guts for garters
So tired I feel asleep with my eyes open
I never cared for flippant remarks, especially when others make them.
This was a lie, but a first-rate one.
Divorce him with a dose of strychnine.
She said something that had it lived might have become a chuckle.
A perfect rainbow of ruin
Gout: a painful disease of those who love their wine more than their livers.
Mediocrity was the greatest camouflage.
Pension: a small sum to tide him over to the church yard.
Stones worn down by 200 years of privileged feet
The corners of her mouth turned up about the thickness of a page.
Whenever I’m a little blue I think about cyanide.
Sometimes I hated myself but not for long.
She stood waiting for the vicar to come scurrying to her.
Dealt out poisons with a happy hand
Inflict her hand picked gifts upon us
She looked as if she had been up to no good, and knew perfectly well what I knew.
Pus-like custard pie
Hammered together by well meaning but inept carpenters