The Golden Tresses of the Dead begins with the wedding of Flavia’s sister Feely, a beautifully emotional affair until the bride discovers a human finger in her wedding cake. At the end of the previous book, Flavia and family friend Dogger had formed their own private detective agency, and they immediately purloin the finger for investigation. They also receive their first official client: a woman who claims some important and sensitive letters have been stolen from her. Both mysteries eventually converge into a large story, and make for a lovely send-off for the young detective.
I’ve been a long-time fan of Flavia de Luce. A tween British girl in the early 20th century with an incredible affinity for chemistry, Flavia was Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes all rolled into one. I love Flavia, with her compelling blend of almost morbid glee (often over body parts and gory stuff) and utter vulnerability (my heart warms every time she speaks about admiring an adult / somewhat-parental figure in her life). She’s a child with a somewhat twisted-yet-useful interest in death, and events have forced her to grow up really quickly.
In Golden Tresses, Flavia has matured quite a bit from the 11 year old we once knew. (She’s now 12.) She still maintains her curiosity and excitement, but she also takes on more of an older sister role to her cousin Undine, and as the new owner of Buckshaw, she takes her responsibilities to the estate staff very seriously. I also found her partnership with Dogger interesting, as I found they ended up fairly evenly matched as partners. Unlike many other detective series where the lead character is a genius and the sidekick valiantly trying to keep up, I actually found Dogger a few steps ahead of Flavia for much of the story. I was slightly disappointed at first because I felt Flavia was now taking a back seat in her own investigation, but by the end of the novel, I think both detectives actually participated fairly evenly in the investigation. I don’t quite remember Dogger being this insightful in previous books, but I like that perhaps he actually was and it was just the opportunity to run a detective agency that finally gave him the opportunity to shine alongside Flavia.
I’m also glad to see the story return to Bishop’s Lacey and Buckshaw. The quaint English setting was one of my favourite parts of the series in the first place, and I had been somewhat disappointed in the later books in the series for taking Flavia away from that and, in one book, seemingly towards a more espionage-ish type story arc.
Golden Tresses was a solid, satisfying end to the series. It wasn’t my favourite Flavia book, but it was a very much welcome return to form. It was fun seeing Flavia grow up and develop as a detective and as a person, while still maintaining the rather morbid charm that hooked readers on the series in the first place.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.