Speaking from among the Bones (Flavia de Luce Series #5)

Speaking from among the Bones (Flavia de Luce Series #5)

by Alan Bradley


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From award-winning author Alan Bradley comes the next cozy British mystery starring intrepid young sleuth Flavia de Luce, hailed by USA Today as “one of the most remarkable creations in recent literature.”

Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sisters’ diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of St. Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s never such thing as an open-and-shut case.

Acclaim for Speaking from Among the Bones
“[Alan] Bradley scores another success. . . . This series is a grown-up version of Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and all those mysteries you fell in love with as a child.”The San Diego Union-Tribune
“The precocious and irrepressible Flavia . . . continues to delight.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Fiendishly brilliant . . . Bradley has created an utterly charming cast of characters . . . as quirky as any British mystery fan could hope for.”—Bookreporter
“Delightful and entertaining.”San Jose Mercury News
Acclaim for Alan Bradley’s beloved Flavia de Luce novels, winners of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, Barry Award, Agatha Award, Macavity Award, Dilys Winn Award, and Arthur Ellis Award
“Every Flavia de Luce novel is a reason to celebrate.”USA Today
“Delightful.”—The Boston Globe, on The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
“Utterly beguiling.”People (four stars), on The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
“Irresistibly appealing.”—The New York Times Book Review, on A Red Herring Without Mustard

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385344043
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/31/2013
Series: Flavia de Luce Series , #5
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 61,853
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Alan Bradley is the New York Times bestselling author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. His first Flavia de Luce novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Agatha Award, the Macavity Award, and the Barry Award, and was nominated for the Anthony Award. His other Flavia de Luce novels are The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, A Red Herring Without MustardI Am Half-Sick of ShadowsSpeaking from Among the Bones, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, and The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place, as well as the ebook short story “The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse.”

Read an Excerpt


Blood dripped from the neck of the severed head and fell in a drizzle of red raindrops, clotting into a ruby pool upon the black and white tiles. The face wore a grimace of surprise, as if the man had died in the middle of a scream. His teeth, each clearly divided from its neighbor by a black line, were bared in a horrible, silent scream.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the thing.

The woman who proudly held the gaping head at arm’s length by its curly blue-­black hair was wearing a scarlet dress—­almost, but not quite, the color of the dead man’s blood.

To one side, a servant with downcast eyes held the platter upon which she had carried the head into the room. Seated on a wooden throne, a matron in a saffron dress leaned forward in square-­jawed pleasure, her hands clenched into fists on the arms of her chair as she took a good look at the grisly trophy. Her name was Herodias, and she was the wife of the king.

The younger woman, the one clutching the head, was—at least, according to the historian Flavius Josephus—named Salome. She was the stepdaughter of the king, whose name was Herod, and Herodias was her mother.

The detached head, of course, belonged to John the Baptist.

I remembered hearing the whole sordid story not more than a month ago when Father read aloud the Second Lesson from the back of the great carved wooden eagle which served as the lectern at St. Tancred’s.

On that winter morning I had gazed up, transfixed, just as I was gazing now, at the stained-­glass window in which this fascinating scene was depicted.

Later, during his sermon, the vicar had explained that in Old Testament times, our blood was thought to contain our lives.

Of course!


Why hadn’t I thought of it before?

“Feely,” I said, tugging at her sleeve, “I have to go home.”

My sister ignored me. She peered closely at the music book as, in the dusky shadows of the fading light, her fingers flew like white birds over the keys of the organ.

Mendelssohn’s Wie gross ist des Allmächt’gen Güte.

“ ‘How great are the works of the Almighty,’ ” she told me it meant.

Easter was now less than a week away and Feely was trying to whip the piece into shape for her official debut as organist of St. Tancred’s. The flighty Mr. Collicutt, who had held the post only since last summer, had vanished suddenly from our village without explanation and Feely had been asked to step into his shoes.

St. Tancred’s went through organists like a python goes through white mice. Years ago, there had been Mr. Taggart, then Mr. Denning. It was now Mr. Collicutt’s kick at the cat.

“Feely,” I said. “It’s important. There’s something I have to do.”

Feely jabbed one of the ivory coupling buttons with her thumb and the organ gave out a roar. I loved this part of the piece: the point where it leaps in an instant from sounding like a quiet sea at sunset to the snarl of a jungle animal.

When it comes to organ music, loud is good—­at least to my way of thinking.

I tucked my knees up under my chin and huddled back into the corner of the choir stall. It was obvious that Feely was going to slog her way through to the end come hell or high water, and I would simply have to wait it out.

I looked at my surroundings but there wasn’t much to see. In the feeble glow of the single bulb above the music rack, Feely and I might as well have been castaways on a tiny raft of light in a sea of darkness.

By twisting my neck and tilting my head back like a hanged man, I could just make out the head of Saint Tancred, which was carved in English oak at the end of a hammer beam in the roof of the nave. In the weird evening light, he had the look of a man with his nose pressed flat against a window, peering in from the cold to a cozy room with a cheery fire burning on the hearth.

I gave him a respectful bob of my head, even though I knew he couldn’t see me since his bones were moldering away in the crypt below. But better safe than sorry.

Above my head, on the far side of the chancel, John the Baptist and his murderers had now faded out almost completely. Twilight came quickly in these cloudy days of March and, viewed from inside the church, the windows of St. Tancred’s could change from a rich tapestry of glorious colors to a muddy blackness in less time than it would take you to rattle off one of the longer psalms.

To tell the truth, I’d have rather been at home in my chemical laboratory than sitting here in the near-­darkness of a drafty old church, but Father had insisted.

Even though Feely was six years older than me, Father refused to let her go alone to the church for her almost nightly rehearsals and choir practices.

“A lot of strangers likely to be about these days,” he said, referring to the team of archaeologists who would soon be arriving in Bishop’s Lacey to dig up the bones of our patron saint.

How I was to defend Feely against the attacks of these savage scholars, Father had not bothered to mention, but I knew there was more to it than that.

In the recent past there had been a number of murders in Bishop’s Lacey: fascinating murders in which I had rendered my assistance to Inspector Hewitt of the Hinley Constabulary.

In my mind, I ticked off the victims on my fingers: Horace Bonepenny, Rupert Porson, Brookie Harewood, Phyllis Wyvern. . . .

One more corpse and I’d have a full hand.

Each of them had come to a sticky end in our village, and I knew that Father was uneasy.

“It isn’t right, Ophelia,” he said, “for a girl who’s—­for a girl your age to be rattling about alone in an old church at night.”

“There’s nobody there but the dead.” Feely had laughed, perhaps a little too gaily. “And they don’t bother me. Not nearly so much as the living.”

Behind Father’s back, my other sister, Daffy, had licked her wrist and wetted down her hair on both sides of an imaginary part in the middle of her head, like a cat washing its face. She was poking fun at Ned Cropper, the potboy at the Thirteen Drakes, who had the most awful crush on Feely and sometimes followed her about like a bad smell.

Feely had scratched her ear to indicate she had understood Daffy’s miming. It was one of those silent signals that fly among sisters like semaphore messages from ship to ship, indecipherable to anyone who doesn’t know the code. Even if Father had seen the gesture, he would not have understood its meaning. Father’s codebook was in a far different language from ours.

“Still,” Father had said, “if you’re coming or going after dark, you are to take Flavia with you. It won’t hurt her to learn a few hymns.”

Learn a few hymns indeed! Just a couple of months ago when I was confined to bed during the Christmas holidays, Mrs. Mullet, in giggling whispers and hushed pledges of secrecy, had taught me a couple of new ones. I never tired of bellowing:

“Hark the herald angels sing,

Beecham’s Pills are just the thing.

Peace on earth and mercy mild,

Two for a man and one for a child!”

Either that or:

“We Three Kings of Leicester Square,

Selling ladies’ underwear,

So fantastic, no elastic,

Only tuppence a pair.”

—­until Feely flung a copy of Hymns Ancient and Modern at my head. One thing I have learned about organists is that they have absolutely no sense of humor.

“Feely,” I said, “I’m freezing.”

I shivered and buttoned up my cardigan. It was bitterly cold in the church at night. The choir had left an hour ago, and without their warm bodies round me, shoulder to shoulder like singing sardines, it seemed even colder still.

But Feely was submerged in Mendelssohn. I might as well have been talking to the moon.

Suddenly the organ gave out a fluttering gasp, as if it had choked on something, and the music gargled to a stop.

“Oh, fiddle,” Feely said. It was as close to swearing as she ever came—­at least in church. My sister was a pious fraud.

She stood up on the pedals and waddled her way off the organ bench, making a harsh mooing of bass notes.

Customer Reviews

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Speaking From Among the Bones: A Flavia de Luce Novel 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
EmaCross More than 1 year ago
By far the best Flavia book yet. I could not put it down until I read the entire book. I was not in shock at the end; I have been waiting for this. I can't stand the idea that I have to wait a year for the next book.
JzFestGalMD More than 1 year ago
I truly love Alan Bradley and Flavia de Luce. Each book gets better, and I feel as though I know Bishops Lacey intimately. Love the development of the characters, and some of the new characters introduced in this book. The ending is a true cliffhanger, but I will wait patiently for the next installment as don't want anything less than the perfection I have come to expect. I must admit, I would appreciate a Flavia in my neighborhood
KentuckyGranney52 More than 1 year ago
love the book Alan Bradely has found a way to mix Homes, Christy and even Nancy Drew into one mystery solving crime fighter. Love the whit and how he makes you think that you know how the crime is going to end. but then a sudden twist that you did not expect to happen. can not wait to read the others and so hope he keeps writting love his work.
Anonymous 3 days ago
I love all the Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley. JB
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
Modern Corpse in the Crypt While I have found the series more uneven than many people seem to, I’ve been enjoying the characters and situations in the Flavia de Luce mysteries. So when a recent road trip found me with a CD that wouldn’t play, I wasn’t too upset when I was able to substitute Speaking From Among the Bones as a last minute audio book. This book finds us in 1951. It’s late March, and the week before Easter. Flavia’s oldest sister Ophelia is concentrating on her debut as the parish organist at the upcoming service. But the big news in their small village of Bishop’s Lacey is the crew that has come to town to dig up the remains of their patron saint. St. Tancred has been dead for 500 years, and they are going to honor him. Naturally, the eleven-year-old Flavia is on the scene when the crew sets to work. But they’ve just dug into the outer chamber of the crypt when they make a shocking discovery. There’s a second body in the crypt, this one decidedly more recent. In fact, everyone in town recognizes him as Mr. Collicutt, the village’s former organist who vanished six weeks ago. Of course, Flavia begins to dig into the latest mystery, but can she find the killer? My main complaint with this series has been that the mysteries can be weak. This one starts out right away, but the book does appear to wander around for a while until we reach the climax. Most of the pieces of the book are indeed needed to solve things, and the solution is wonderful. The real charm continues to be the characters. Flavia is one of the most unique main characters. While at times I can be annoyed by her antics (something kept to a minimum here), at others she is rather funny in her reactions to things. We get to know a bit more about the rest of her family here and make some interesting new friends along the way. The characters are becoming deeper and richer with every book, something I really enjoy. In fact, I’m quite curious about how an on-going series sub-plot is going to progress. I care enough about the characters I need to know they will be okay. Granted, the cliffhanger at the end of the book would be enough to make me want to read the next one soon anyway. Jane Entwistle is the narrator once again for the audio book, and she is Flavia. Her inflections as she does the first person narration are half the fun. I don’t know that I would enjoy reading the books for myself now I’ve gotten so spoiled. Because of the character growth, it’s probably best to go back to the beginning to enjoy these books. But you’ll be enjoying Speaking from Among the Bones before you know it.
duMaurierRose More than 1 year ago
I really like this series. Bradley has a wonderfully precocious imagination, perfectly balanced with sincerity and vulnerablilty. His books are deliciously absorbing. I only wish the B&N shipping department would be half as absorbed in their work; this is the second time I've received a Flavia book with a crumpled cover, and this time another book I that ordered with it was actually resting inside the cover of this book, as if they just didn't care in what condition it arrived. I really hope that the B&N shipping service improves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The entire Flavia series is delightful and is perfect for anyone who likes books that are charming, well-written, and wholesome. I have given many of these books as gifts and everyone who reads them becomes a fan of Flavia De Luce. The hardbacks are adorable decorative, and colorful, and make a charming addition to one's library. The only negative was B&N delivery which was not as promised, and the customer service which was less than helpful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a great fan of Flavia. Delightful may sound strange for a murder mystery, but I use this as I would to describe a Miss Marple mystery!!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a Flavia admirer and this book was just as amusing and well written as the rest.
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Chazzle More than 1 year ago
I began the book about two months after publication; I was keenly aware of its existence, but I was none too anxious to dive in. I mean, #5 in a series? It's like James Bond - "Shaken, not stirred" works only so many times. (About 20 times if you're a man.) My point is this: DO NOT HESITATE TO DROP EVERYTHING, AND READ THIS BOOK NOW. You're always in good hands with Allstate, and Alan Bradley. Excerpts: Antigone smiled upon me like a madonna who had just had a foot massage.  and Feely was gazing into her teacup, admiring her own reflection. She insisted on drinking it plain, "no cream, thank you," the better to see herself in the shimmering liquid surface. At the moment, she was blowing on it gently to see what she'd look like with wavy hair.  and of the "cooking" of the governess Mrs. Mullet: The very thought of this gray guck sticking to my ribs - or anything else - was enough to make my stomach go into hibernation. "Thank you, Mrs. M", I said groggily, adding a generous slosh of milk to the oatmeal. Perhaps I could sip away at the liquid and leave the quivering horror hidden beneath the surface like the Loch Ness Monster. With writing like this, a great plot and goose bump guaranteed climax are almost beside the point. Almost. I urge you not read any "spoilers" of this book. Heed the "spoiler alerts" and direct your eyes elsewhere. Buy it. Read it. Love it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She is so awesome.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read the whole series and I absolutely adore Flavia , her family, and her community
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
etd More than 1 year ago
These books are the best!  I want to go back to teaching and make all these books part of our literature sessions and have read aloud with my students at the edge of their seats!   Flavia is such a brilliant character!
merlyn63 More than 1 year ago
Flavia is at her best in SPEAKING FROM THE BONES and the family's plight plays no small part. You will find yourself immersed in Flavia's latest adventure while worried about the DeLuces' future. Flavia is up to her second floor bedroom in bodies and suspects and uncovers something very revealing about herself in this story. Bradley has done it again -- Thank you Alan!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good as always...this girl is a pip!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago