Book of the Month Club: The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse by Alan Bradley

Port de Tête. Plateau Bookstore. Photo Laura Dumitriu Port de Tête. Plateau Bookstore. Photo Laura Dumitriu

I’ve always been amazed by the ease with which a stranger’s life can be reconstructed by simply snooping through their belongings. Art and imagination combine to tell a tale that’s more complete than even a fat printed biography could ever hope to equal. And Mr. Denning was no exception: His secrets were laid so bare that I felt I ought to be apologizing.

Flavia de Luce is a precocious 11-year-old British girl whose knowledge of chemistry and sharp observational skills helps her solve mysteries. In her latest story, the murder victim de jour is a staff member in charge of the student’s boarding at a private school. Called on by a fellow student, Flavia jumps onto the case wholeheartedly (well, with exception of a bit of apprehension her previous run-in with a bullying staff member).

The main character has a spunky attitude and is quickly likeable, although the story’s sophisticated writing style in its descriptions and its knowledge of chemistry that does not seem like the knowledge of a young girl. Rather, it seems as if the speaker is older than her eleven years, something which, given the character’s supposed age, made it hard to believe and detracted from the story. When the culprit is found, we get a Sherlock Holmes-like confrontation with Flavia describing play by play the manner of death and how she found the culprit, which is not to my tastes but is nonetheless well written and explained.

Overall, the story is very well-written and is worth reading for the atmosphere it invokes in few words. It would be a misnomer to call this work anything else but a short story as it would hardly fit anything larger than a pamphlet if printed. I was expecting more story, and it felt more like a filler to keep fans happy while the author is typing away at a new novel. However, with its tinge of humour and self-awareness, it is still well written and worth a quick read over a lunch break.