Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Review: I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS by Alan Bradley

I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS is another engaging entry in the wonderful Flavia de Luce mysteries by Canadian writer, Alan Bradley.

The setting is a huge, dilapidated house in the English countryside. It is the early 1950's and eleven year old Flavia is up to her usual plotting and sleuthing as her home is invaded by film makers over the Christmas holiday. Buckshaw, the de Luce family estate has been usurped (for a very welcome fee, of course), by a troupe of movie people bent on using the colorful pile as backdrop for a film starring beloved world-famous actress Phyllis Wyvern.

As a snowy blizzard rages outside on Christmas Eve, half the townspeople are forced to spend the night at Buckshaw - they'd been invited earlier to see a a scene from Romeo and Juliet performed by Wyvern and her leading man, Desmond Duncan -  a fund-raising event on behalf of a new roof for the local church.

Though Flavia has other fish to fry, she is still beside herself with excitement as she scuttles about the house observing the theatrical comings and goings of the cast and crew.

Flavia's other fish: She has a plot afoot to trap Father Christmas on the roof. She is whipping up a concoction of bird lime in her late great uncle's laboratory on the top floor of the house - science prodigy Flavia's preferred place in the world. Why the sticky glue-like birdlime? Well, Flavia plans to prove Father Christmas is real by entrapping him on the roof and proving to her sisters, once and for all, that he exists. To that end, she goes up to the roof on Christmas Eve, despite the snow, and smears birdlime near the chimneys and wherever she thinks Father Christmas might walk when he stops by in the night to deliver presents.

Sometimes you just have to shake your head.

But in the meantime, murder occurs and Flavia is on the scene ready to get to the bottom of things, eager to lend a hand to Inspector Hewitt when he and his police team eventually make their way through the snow, to Buckshaw.

My only quibble with I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS is, that it was too short. The pages just flew by and in the end, I wanted more - wanted to spend more time with Flavia and her often odious sisters (though in this book, they are mellowed a bit by Christmas) and her sad, silent, brooding, stamp-loving dad, Havilland de Luce.

Note: the title of the book is taken from the poem by Tennyson, THE LADY OF SHALOTT.

For a complete list of the Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley, please use this link.


  1. A peculiar coincidence; I just read the poem yesterday hoping to use verses in an upcoming post. I am not familiar with the writing of Alan Bradley, or his diminutive heroine, but a mystery set a Christmas (and read a Christmas) makes me feel twice warm and cozy.

  2. whistlingypsy: This is a great book for Christmas reading. :)

    I'm adding it to my list of Best Books to Read and/or give.

    A cup of tea and a scone would be nice with this.

  3. I'm going to treat myself to this book as an early birthday gift (the dreaded 5-0 descends upon me in ten days). I used to get books all the time, but now all I ever hear from family is "You're always buying books. You don't need anymore." Sacrilege!

  4. He is very prolific. Seems like the first was just out and now three.

  5. John: You definitely should and let me be one of the first to wish you a Happy Birthday in advance!

    50 is duck soup, my friend. :)

  6. Patti: Prolific and good. It's hard to imagine though how an elderly male writer 'gets' being an 11 year old girl that right.

  7. I think he actually had seven of them written before the first published. But I may be wrong.

    But I totally agree about this being much too short. I was actually really disappointed, but I guess since the last one came out in the spring, I'll let it slide. :)

  8. Sort of like J.K. Rowling...

    I wasn't disappointed in the story, loved the harrowing ending. I just wanted Christmas with Flavia to continue.

    Well, in truth, I didn't quite get the motive for murder. But that happens to me every now and then.

  9. When you say huge dilapidated house in the English countryside, you've got me hooked!

  10. Mystica: Me too! I love to read about that sort of ambience. :)

  11. I haven't read any of these, Yvette, but I have heard only good things about them. Can they be taken out of order? This one sounds fascinating, but do I need to go back to the first one - I think it was "Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" - or can I jump?

  12. Actually, Les, these don't really have to be read in order. At least, in my opinion.

    But you might want to read one of the previous ones just to make yourself familiar with the characters.

    My favorite is still: THE WEED THAT STRINGS THE HANGMAN'S BAG.

    But really, they're all quite good.

  13. I LOVED the first Flavia de Luce book and I really need to get my hands on the next two! I find it amazing, too, that Alan Bradley writes the character of an 11-year-old girl so well. I was a strange little girl, so I totally "get" Flavia.

  14. I just went ahead and bought all the e-books. I had no idea there were four already!

  15. Lauren, I think there's a little bit of Flavia in all adventurous little girls, in all lonely little girls, in all super-intelligent little girls. :)

    It's just a wonderful series.

    I'm pleased you plan to read them. I look forward to your reviews. :)


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