Monday, October 31, 2011
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.