December 5, 2011

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley: Review

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There's something about Christmas and murder, at least the fictional sort. Last year I read, Hercule Poirot's Christmas. It was a great pick for the season. This year I picked up I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley, another murder mystery. It's becoming my thing.

Flavia's father, in a desperate bid to keep Buckshaw, allows a film crew to use the house as the set of a new movie. Soon the hustle and bustle of numerous strangers hauling equipment fill the halls. Famous actress Phyllis Wyvern arrives and agrees to do a little Romeo and Juliet to raise funds for the church. Not only is the house filled to the rafters with actors but half the village turns out for the show. Christmas is only days away but a storm threatens to keep Father Christmas out and the invaders in.

There couldn't be a Flavia de Luce mystery without a murder. When a body is discovered, Flavia (and Inspector Hewitt) is on the case! 

This might be my second favorite Flavia de Luce novel after Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. It's a condensed Flavia mystery. Flavia has to get to the bottom of things before Father Christmas arrives. The suspects have nowhere to go. With everyone thrown together, there are more opportunities for the development of relationships that we've seen throughout the series. Flavia's father is practically non-existent. He's emotionally unavailable; he actually tells her 'only foreigners cry.' She's eleven! She finds father-figures in other men, like Dogger who is all messed up from the war. Inspector Hewitt is her rock star. She works so hard to show him how smart she is. I saw so much of her affection for the two men in this book.

I love Flavia's mix of  innocence and precociousness. Sure, she loves her poisons but she still wants to believe in Father Christmas. Her idea of building a chemical Santa Trap is typical Flavia. 

I haven't mentioned much about the murder because it comes so late in the story and is almost secondary. There are so many hints at family secrets that I was more interested in what was going on off stage. What were the de Luces up to during the war? Who was Dogger before he was a prisoner of war? What secret is her sisters hiding?

The one thing that bothers me about the series is how often Flavia is almost killed. It happens a lot! And I just don't dig Children in Peril. Please stop. 

At just over 200 pages, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows was a quick read. I was hooked by it right off and didn't want to put it down. Grab a hot cocoa and settle in by the fireplace for this one.

Highly recommended.

Ratings:

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11 comments :

  1. Sounds interesting. So Flavia is a kid trying to solve a mystery so Santa can still arrive? Is the story told from her POV?

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  2. Yes, it's Flavia's POV. She wants to solve the murder case so she can get on with the business of catching Santa. This is the 4th book so it helps to have read the other 3.

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  3. I really liked this book too, and I liked it even more than THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE. This one felt very much like a movie to me.

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  4. I just reviewed this one today too! I loved it. It's definitely either my favorite or second favorite of the series. Something about keeping the whole thing at Buckshaw worked really well.

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  5. This sounds like such a fun holidays read! Unfortunately I've only read the first in the series, so I can't get to it yet.

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  6. I don't think you have to worry about Flavia - she is the series, so she's going to survive. Great review!

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  7. It's next up on my shelf, so glad to hear it doesn't disappoint. It's also my first Bradley book, so I'm quite excited.

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  8. I'm thinking of using my latest Barnes and Noble gift card to investigate the first Flavia novel since I haven't read a single one of these yet. I'm usually not a mystery person, but this series just seems too much fun to pass up.

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  9. I really must get back to this series. I was hoping to with the R.I.P. challenge, but it just didn't happen...

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  10. I really need to get to the Flavia series. Everyone seems to love it so much!

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  11. Great review ... and it is worrisome how much in peril Flavia is ... and how neglectful her father is. When you think about it, she would have been visited by Child Services by now!

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