Rating: 4* of five
The Book Report: Flavia de Luce does Christmas. Buckshaw, Bishop's Lacey, is now the scene of Ilium Films's new Phyllis Wyvern extravaganza, The Cry of the Raven. The film company has paid the desperately strapped-for-cash Colonel Haviland de Luce a sizable sum to use Buckshaw as the backdrop for this bound-to-be-mega hit, which means Christmas will be spent with an entire film crew up the family's collective backside. Flavia meets the famous Miss Wyvern as she enters the house, charming as cheesecake on a plate of strawberries, even winning the adulation of the normally suspicious Flavia by demonstrating her apparently genuine interest in matters of murder: She quotes from the dreadful gossip sheet Illustrated London News about a recent scandalous killing. Well then!
Not long after the lady's arrival, the cast and crew and director make their various appearances, as doe the Vicar, with a modest proposal: He'd like famous movie star Wyvern to appear as Juliet, her star-making role, in a village fete in aid of the church roof's repair. To absolutely universal astonishment, Miss Wyvern agrees, and the plot begins to spin faster and faster. Since the hairpins have begun to fall, and Miss Wyvern's true meanness is revealed, the fact that she's murdered by someone present at Buckshaw after the fete...which includes just about the whole village, since a blizzard's blown in, sealing all the audience in Buckshaw's foyer...comes as no surprise whatever.
Even though the bloom has gone off the rose of Flavia's admiration for the lady, a murder under her own roof is simply too much to resist meddling in! And meddle she does, searching the victim's room and even standing in at the post-mortem examination of the body. Flavia, though, is callously shut out by Inspector Hewitt of the Hinley P.D., as is his wont. He has, thinks Flavia, personal animus against her now, as Flavia made a terrible break at tea taken in the Hewitt home.
But in the end, Flavia solves the horrible, tawdry crime, and fails to become the next murder victim herself by dint of one of her chemistry experiments designed to trap Santa Claus on his way to the chimney, thereby disproving her horrible, heartless sisters's claims that there is no Santa. And, at the very tippy-end of the book, Buckshaw's future at the hands of the tax receivers is probably averted thanks to the very play that caused the Christmas crisis to begin with...a lovely, deft scene that wrapped up an end I was really ticked about having loose.
Merry Christmas indeed, Flavia.
My Review: Every series needs a Christmas book. This is it. If you liked the others, this one will please you; but it has the standard plot-hole and plausibility flaws. If they didn't tick you off before, they won't now, either. Happy Holidays!