Bradley, Alan. (2011). I am Half-Sick of Shadows. New York: Delacorte Press. 320 pages. $17.99.
Flavia de Luce, a precocious 11 year old, puts her sleuthing skills to the test when a famous actress is murdered at the family estate.
It’s a few days before Christmas in Bishop Lacey, a fictional village in post World War II England. As outlined in previous novels, the de Luce’s have financial troubles so to help bring in more money, Flavia’s widowed father, Colonel de Luce, has rented out the family estate, Buckshaw, to a film crew. The famous actress Phyllis Wyvern will be starring in the film and while all the household is starstruck, it is Flavia that earns her trust. In the middle of a snow storm that strands the majority of the villagers at the estate, Flavia discovers that Phyllis Wyvern has been murdered. And although the local police do not always appreciate her help, there is a grudging admiration for her sly and effective ways of always putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce novels always deliver. The appeal of these books lies in the unique 11 year old perspective that is delivered through the precocious and adventurous eyes of Flavia. She is the youngest of three girls whose widowed father has detached himself from the world through stamp collection and the older sisters are a constant source of irritation. Yet Flavia’s keen determination for the truth drives this independent child into situations normally avoided by children her age and most adults for that matter. And while she is helping to put together the clues of the murder, she is bound and determined to prove her sisters wrong by developing a plan to “capture” Father Christmas on the roof of Buckshaw before he has a chance to get down the chimney. In true Flavia style, both mysteries are solved simultaneously with impressive energy.
A fatal grace by Louise Penny
Real Murders by Charlaine Harris
Book Discussion Questions:
How did Flavia put her chemistry passion to use in this novel? What has been your favorite use of chemical observations in this series?
Bradley dives deeper into the de Luce family relationships with each novel. How are Flavia’s observations of her family changing?
At the beginning of the novel, we are in the midst of Flavia’s dream. How does the dream define Flavia?
Reasons for selection:
This is the 4th novel in the Flavia de Luce series and I have opened every one with great anticipation. Flavia was introduced to me by a long-time Adult Services librarian who sensed my appreciation for mystery, wit and the cozy feel of the English countryside. Perhaps this is Harriet the Spy with an even greater IQ and a lot of access. After all, not every child has their own fully operational chemistry lab!