Monday, December 26, 2011
I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
It’s Christmastime, and the precocious Flavia de Luce—an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a penchant for crime-solving—is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found, past midnight, strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of sly wit at her disposal to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.
This fourth novel featuring aspiring chemist-cum-sleuth Flavia De Luce is a wonderful addition to the canon with more focus on Flavia than on the murder mystery. Though the mystery of a world-famous actress cruelly killed while prepping to film a movie at cold and crumbling Buskshaw over the Christmas holiday is never really that engaging, it was the insights into Flavia and her relationships with her friends and family that are revealed which kept me reading late into the night. Flavia, determined to use science to capture Father Christmas, is a charming blend of naivete and experience, a mini-adult in some ways still struggling to come to terms with her childhood in others. Flavia is growing up and asking questions, revealing in the process a compelling vulnerability and emotional depth that was less evident in the earlier books. Heck, she didn't even try to poison anyone this time around!
All in all a great addition to any library; certainly a wonderful idea for a gift this holiday season!