Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: I am Half-Sick of Shadows

Summary: 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. -- Delacorte Press

Yes...I know it's Halloween, but I'm reviewing a Christmas book today -- see the green Santa hat on the skeleton. I figure if the stores are already stocked with holiday items and playing Christmas music, then I can start sharing some Christmas-themed books with all of you!

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I haven't read a Flavia de Luce novel. THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley has been near the top of my mystery pile and I never seem to get around to reading it with all of the new releases. So it wasn't until I received a copy of the latest Flavia novel I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS as part of the Random House Early Bird Read that I finally discovered what all of the fuss was about. I can see why this series has been so popular with readers. It was positively delightful!

I just adored I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS! My only regret is that I haven't yet read the first three books in the series. That's not to say that I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS doesn't work as a stand-alone novel because it most certainly does. It just means that I enjoyed the story and the characters so much that I wish I had started at the very beginning of Flavia's adventures. Needless to say, I will be picking up THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE in the very near future.

I had pretty high expectations when I picked up I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS because I knew that THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE was critically acclaimed, an award winner, and a best-seller; and I have to say that I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS lived up to all of my expectations. I loved Mr. Bradley's writing style and I thought the mystery was a good one. However, what I adored most about this novel was Flavia. She is one fantastic character, and maybe even one of my favorite amateur sleuths to date!

For those of you who have not yet discovered the wonder of Flavia de Luce, I'll tell you a little bit about her. She's an remarkable tween girl who's extremely intelligent and loves chemistry and poisons. On one hand, she seems like an adult with her mature insight into crimes and her resourcefulness; but on the other hand, she seems like a pretty typical pre-teen girl... especially when it comes to her antagonistic relationship with her two older sisters and her naivete about social situations. She is truly one amazing sleuth and I absolutely love her insight as well as her wit. She just cracks me up -- especially when she concocted a chemical formula to "catch" Saint Nick in a sticky situation!

Another really fantastic thing about I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS was the setting. I admit that I wasn't exactly thrilled that this book took place in the 1950s on Flavia's family estate in England. (I'm not sure why but it just seemed kind of stuffy.) But I must say, that I loved Buckshaw. Buckshaw definitely can to life in this story and in some ways, it was almost a secondary character. Buckshaw is in decay because Flavia's father can no longer afford to keep up with the repairs, so he allows a filming crew to rent the house and grounds. It ends up that Buckshaw is an ideal location for a holiday gathering of the town people as well as the murder of a famous actress.

I admit that I loved Flavia so much that the mystery was almost secondary to me. When I think back on this novel, though, I would say that the mystery was very intriguing. Since there were many people in the house for the filming and the charity performance of the stars, the entire population of the town and the film crew were suspects. Flavia quickly narrowed the list using her extremely insightful intuition, and she eventually solved the crime and even ensnared the suspects. The ending of the novel is action-packed and very entertaining!

I really can't rave enough about Flavia and her crime-solving capabilities. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

12 comments:

Beth F said...

I adore Flavia! I haven't gotten to this one yet, but I'm so happy that you weren't disappointed.

Patty said...

I have read each and every Flavia de Luce book and love each one more and more...can not wait for this one.

Karlie said...

I haven't read any Flavia books either...sounds very entertaining.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I just read the first book but I was one of the few who (even though I did like Flavia) wasn't enamored enough to keep going in the series. I'm glad you liked it though!

Serena said...

Looks like you now have an excuse to read the first books in the series. Happy reading.

bermudaonion said...

I read the first book, and fell in love with Flavia and her spunk, but haven't managed to get to anymore books in the series. Your review is fantastic!

Beth Hoffman said...

Wonderful review, Julie! Count me in as a Flavia fan.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Argh. I have the first one on my shelves, along with a billion other things I want to read, but haven't made the time. I particularly love the covers of these books.

reviewsbylola said...

I had no idea he was coming out with a Christmas themed Flavia mystery. How fun!

Farin said...

I hadn't read any of the Flavia books before I got the early bird read, and, like you, I was an immediate convert. Love Flavia, love the setting, love everything! I can't wait to read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

joanna said...

I love Flavia! The actual plot of the story is always secondary to me, I just love her character, the way she looks at things in a different way. And the science - so very cool!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Another Flavia book, yahoo! I just adore this precocious young narrator.

Thanks for letting me know about I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS, I didn't know Alan Bradley had another one for us. :)