The Buckshaw Chronicles Volume I (2012) is the first omnibus in the Flavia de Luce series. It contains The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, andA Red Herring without Mustard. It begins in the summer of 1950 at Buckshaw manor near Bishop's Lacey, a small town in England.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (2009) is the first mystery novel of this series. Flavia is tied and gagged and then thrust into a closet by her sisters. She had arched her thumbs and fingers as they were tied and easily frees her hands. Then she picks the lock and goes down the stairs for breakfast.
Afterward, Flavia swipes Ophelia's pearls. She is a self-taught chemist with her own laboratory (left by an ancestor). When Ophelia arrives at the lab to confront her, Flavia is busily boiling the pearls in acid. So Ophelia tells her that she is not really their sister, but was adopted.
Flave then steals a tube of lipstick from Ophelia's room and melts down the emulsion. She adds plant juice to it and recasts the substance within a .45 caliber bullet mold. Then she reinserts it into the tube and returns the lipstick to Ophelia's drawer.
At breakfast, Ophelia demands the return of her lipstick. Flave asks if she has searched the drawer where she usually leaves it. Ophelia stalks off to recheck the drawer. Flave makes a note to observe her sister's face over the next few days.
One evening, Flavia is awakened by voices. She checks outside her window, but no one is within the garden. She then opens her bedroom door and follows the voices to her father's room.
She listens at the door and hears a strange voice. She looks through the keyhole and sees a tall, red-headed man in the room. Then Dogger catches her and tells her to go back to bed.
The next morning, Flavia arises just before sunrise and goes out to the garden. As she is thinking about the events of the previous evening, she trips on a hand sticking out of the cucumbers. It belongs to a stranger who is barely alive.
Flavia bends over and hears him say "Vale" as he dies. The girls are not allowed to use the phone without permission from their father, so she finds Dogger and asks him to call the police. But Dogger has another spell and Flavia has to make the call.
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (2010) is the second mystery novel of this series. Flavia is lying on a grave pretending that she is dead. A jackdaw is lured into landing on the tombstone. She leaps up and throws a stone at it, but she misses the bird.
Then Flave hears someone crying. She follows the sound and finds a weeping woman stretched out on a limestone tomb. When she speaks, Nialla leaps to her feet and protests that she is all right.
Flavia gives her a handkerchief and Nialla dries her tears. Flave takes it back and puts it in her pocket. Then Nialla mentions that she is with Rupert Porson and is puzzled by Flave's confusion.
Nialla explains that she and Rupert had a vehicular breakdown and points to an Austin Eight. On the sides of the van are the words PORSON'S PUPPETS. Then the Vicar appears and offers to call a mechanic to fix the vehicle.
Rupert returns from town and introduces himself and Nialla to the Vicar. The churchman has heard of The Magic Kingdom show and invites Rupert to give a performance of Jack and the Beanstalk in the parish hall. Flavia stays around to help carry the boxes and equipment in the van to the hall.
When Flavia returns to Buckshaw manor, her father tells her that Aunt Felicity is coming for a visit. Her father informs her that she will meet Felicity at the train station. Flave is not very excited; indeed, she is not at all happy with the idea.
The next day, Flavia goes to the parish hall to help setup for the first performance. Rupert gives her a good look at the stage and the puppets. She checks the tickets and shows the audience to their seats. Then she sits down and watches the show.
Then Flavia has to rush off to the station. She goes down the tow path and across the river and then rides her bike home. The taxi is waiting and speeds to the station, reaching it just as the train arrives.
The whole family attends the evening performance of the puppet show. It is just as enchanting as the earlier performance. As Jack cuts the beanstalk, Rupert thumps down on the puppet stage and the lights go out. Rupert is quite dead.
A Red Herring without Mustard (2011) is the third mystery novel of this series. Flave is attending a church fete. She tries the fortune teller and receives a shock. The Gypsy knows about Harriet and her fall in the Himalayas. She jumps up and knocks over the candle. The tent goes up in smoke.
Flavia rushes out of the tent and takes cover neat her sister. Daffy is looking through the old books. Flavia finds one about sixteen century England that looks good.
Then Flavia observes Brookie manhandling Colin. He thinks Colin started the fire in the gypsy tent. Colin says that he still has three matches.
Then Flavia notices the caravan behind the ashes of the fortune teller's tent. She learns that Fanella had camped at the Palings on the Buckshaw property before Harriet had died. So Flavia invites her to do so again.
Flavia rides along on the caravan while Fenella hold the reins. They go to the Palings by the Gully road, passing the Bull shack. Mrs. Bull comes out yelling that the gypies have come back and telling Tom to bring the axe.
Flavia improvises a lie about a movie being made in the vicinity. Mrs. Bull is fooled and Fenella is impressed. They go on to the Palings and Flavia helps the gypsy woman lie down for a rest.
Later, Flavia comes back to the camp and finds Fenella lying in a pool of her own blood. Flavia rides the gypsy's horse back to get the doctor and they drive back to the Palings. Together, they take Fenella out of the caravan on the door and insert it into the passenger seat.
Flave is always certain, except with her father. The next installment in this omnibus sequence has not yet been released on Amazon.
Highly recommended for Bradley fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of murder mysteries, young detectives, and family relationships. Read and enjoy!