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I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (2011)

by Alan Bradley

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Flavia de Luce (4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,8641536,253 (3.96)240
"Colonel de Luce, in desperate need of funds, rents his beloved estate of Buckshaw over to a film company. They will be shooting a movie over the Christmas holidays, filming scenes in the stately manse with a famous and reclusive star. She is widely despised, so it is to no one's surprise when she turns up murdered, strangled by a length of film from her own movies! With the snow raging outside and Buckshaw locked in, the house is full of suspects. But Flavia de Luce is more than ready to solve the wintry country-house murder. She'll have to be quick-witted, though, to negotiate the volatile chemicals of a cast and crew starting to crack--and locked in a house with a murderer!"--… (more)
  1. 40
    The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer (ErisofDiscord)
    ErisofDiscord: A heroine with a very similar temperament to Flavia; Enola Holmes solves mysteries and finds missing persons, all while evading her very capable brother: Sherlock Holmes.
  2. 40
    The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King (47degreesnorth)
  3. 00
    A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: I Am Half-Sick of Shadows and A Fatal Grace are cozy mysteries set in small towns. In each, the victim is disliked by many; thus, many have motives to kill. It is up to the ingenious protagonists to solve the crime.
  4. 00
    The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (47degreesnorth)
  5. 13
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (Yells)
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» See also 240 mentions

English (151)  German (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (153)
Showing 1-5 of 151 (next | show all)
My fourth visit to Flavia De Luce found her posh but impoverished family preparing for Christmas by allowing their home to be used to film a movie, starring two of Britain's brightest acting stars.

As this is a Flavia De Luce novel, it's clear that Flavia will discover at least one dead body without having to leave her isolated little village. As it's a Christmas special, it's also clear that the plot will be as plausible as "Miracle on 34th Street". As it's an Alan Bradley novel, it's clear the writing and the characterisation will ferry your imagination into a world that feels true even if it doesn't always seem real.

In this visit I got a spectacular winter snowstorm, an insight into Aunt Felicity's murky wartime activities, a scene from Romeo and Juliet performed in Buckshaw's shabby splendour, a gruesome murder and rooftop fight to the death as well as learning about the chemistry of fireworks and more ways of producing poisons at home.

I make these visits in order to meet Flavia, who has captured my heart, In this book her energy is only exceeded by her curiosity as she tries to solve a murder, prove whether or not Santa Claus exists, reak revenge (real and imaginary) on her sisters and garnish scraps of approval and affection from the people she loves.

The reason I visit Flavia is best demonstrated in "I Am Half-sick Of Shadows" by the way she treats Dogger, the manservant at the Flavia's palatial but decaying home. Dogger suffers from fits of the terrors, a legacy from his experiences in a Japanese-run prisoner of war camp. One of these fits overtakes him when he is alone with Flavia. Flavia, eleven-year-old Flavia, eases him out of his attack, banishing his ghosts and giving him his dignity by letting him recover while she looks out at the pre-Christmas snow, reflecting aloud on the billions of oxygen and hydrogen atoms it takes to make the "stiff water" of a snowflake, continuing her monologue until he slips into sleep.

These moments of compassion and companionship fleck the narrative of these books with bright points of poetry that make me wish I knew Flavia and that, if I did, I would be one of the people with the insight to see her for who she really is rather than dismissing her as just another precocious girl.

I know Flavia is a fictional character, but still... fictional characters like her are what make fiction worth reading. ( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
Flavia is one of the most endearing, captivating, curious, beguiling, precocious characters I've ever discovered in the pages of a book! I love her thought processes and inner dialogue. She is so old and yet still so young. Her attempts to puzzle out the identity of the murderer are at odds with the little girl concocting a super sticky glue to capture Saint Nick on the chimney and prove to her sisters that he is indeed real.

Although the murder plot line is good, for this reader, it is the characters that Bradley has created that capture and hold my interest the most. I love the quirky inhabitants of the village, the sparring sisters and how we learn a little bit more with each book about some of them. This time around we get to learn more about the enigmatic and mysterious Dogger - Buckshaw's man of many hats.

What is the appeal of an eleven year old protagonist for adult readers? Well, for this reader, it's the chance to vicariously relive my missed opportunities to become Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy. And honestly, you can't read any of the books, without smiling and chuckling.

I can't wait for the next book in this planned six book series - Seeds of Antiquity. Highly, highly recommended! ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
The 4th book in the charming series. It's a fun and cozy mystery. The 11 year old sleuth does not disappoint. Just because the main character is 11 does not mean that this book is for young adults. Young adults could read it but the target readers are adults. ( )
  kresslya | Feb 24, 2020 |
I think this may be my favorite so far of the Flavia De Luce series. She is an utterly delightful character. ( )
  slmr4242 | Oct 16, 2019 |
In need of a breather, we get back to Flavia de Luce, the precocious 11-year old who loves chemistry and is nosy as all get out. What's not to like about chemistry and nosy, 11-year old girls? My spouse would say, "LOTS!", but I have a fondness for chemistry and I have a fond memory of my awesome niece when she was 11 or so (not that I still don't have a fondness for her now that she's rapidly approaching spinsterhood).

It turns out that Flavia's father finds himself in straightened circumstances, yet again. So he hires out his manor house to a theater company who are planning to film a movie with the most magnificent, illustrious, most beloved actress of the day, Phyllis Wyvern. The film people come and set up. The local vicar convinces Ms. Wyvern that she should put on a small "entertainment" for the people of Bishops Lacey, to support the church's roof restoration project.

It's also Christmas, and Flavia determines to figure out once and for all if St. Nick is fact or fiction. So she concocts an ungodly sticky goo to slather on the chimney pots. She'll capture St. Nick for sure, if he is real, and if she doesn't capture him, then she'll know he's a myth. Yay, experimental science!

Naturally, Phyllis Wyvern turns up murdered just before the local entertainment is to go off. So everyone already had been gathered in the manor house, so they're stuck there. They're also trapped because the roads are all snowed in and the phone lines are down.

Needless to say, Flavia's sleuthing saves the day, and her special goo helps capture one of the culprits, if not St. Nick. ( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 151 (next | show all)
The novel opens with Flavia skating past paintings of her long-dead relatives in Buckshaw’s portrait gallery. The east wing of her sprawling, ancestral home is unheated, she reminds us, so it was no trouble to flood the room and create her own private arena. As she skates she daydreams about a photographer stumbling upon her and snapping her photo, landing her in a famous magazine and simultaneously making her older sisters jealous and her widower father proud. The dream is burst, however, by the very real cold of her bedroom. Flavia, of course, is dreaming, and with that Bradley launches us into life at Buckshaw a few days before Christmas.

Like most 11-year-old girls, Flavia is teetering on the question of Father Christmas. Her older sisters, Daphne and Ophelia, have horridly told her there’s no such person, but Flavia can’t quite believe it. So, to prove her sisters wrong she has devised a plan to catch the jolly old elf. Being the chemical whiz that she is, Flavia eschews amateur tricks such as nets and instead decides to brew a batch of birdlime, an extra-sticky glue used to hunt songbirds. Her preparations are interrupted, however, by the arrival of a film crew.

Bradley’s novels are, ostensibly, mysteries. Certainly, each one builds up to a murder, allowing Flavia to insert herself into the investigation so she can, with Miss Marple-esque skills, solve the case either before or at just the same moment as the police. Usually, her investigations involve sly interviews with villagers and many trips on Gladys, her bicycle. This time around, though, the murder is at Buckshaw and much of her sleuthing can be done by snooping through guest bedrooms and strategically overhearing conversations.

Despite the murder and subsequent investigation, Shadows is more about the de Luce family than anything else. It’s Christmas, after all, and along with the holiday’s religious implications are its familial ones. The de Luce family is an uncomfortable one, though, and filled with more than its share of secrets and things left unsaid. As Bradley’s series progresses, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the real plot revolves around Flavia’s simultaneous desire to understand more about the de Luces and nervousness about what she might learn.

Certainly Flavia can solve a murder, but matters of love and relationships continue to puzzle her and engage us, giving Bradley’s novels a much more emotional edge than your average drawing room mystery.
added by VivienneR | editThe National Post, Angela Hickman (Dec 23, 2011)
 
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows is a delicious, lighthearted holiday read best served by a crackling fireplace with warm eggnog – but please, hold the noxious compounds.
 
This is a delightful read through and through. We find in Flavia an incorrigible and wholly lovable detective; from her chemical experiments in her sanctum sanctorum to her outrage at the idiocy of the adult world, she is unequaled. Charming as a stand-alone novel and a guaranteed smash with series followers.
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Amy Nolan (Oct 15, 2011)
 
The book is beautifully written, with fully fleshed characters, even the minor ones such as odd-job man Dogger and Mrs. Mullet, who rules in the kitchen.
 
Flavia de Luce may belong to a different time period, but mostly she belongs to the world of imagination, both restricting and expansive enough to allow many more visits to Buckshaw — as well as the laboratory of criminal concoctions still stewing in their juices, waiting to be unbottled in future books.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bradley, Alanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aldred, SophieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bassett, JeffAuthor photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Entwistle, JayneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geraci, AlfonsoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heikinheimo, MaijaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hobbing, DianeDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jung, GeraldÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Montgomery, JoeCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orgaß, KatharinaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perini, BenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van Bronswijk, InekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
...She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirrored magic sights
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights,
And music, went to Camelot;
Or, when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
"I am half-sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.
- Alfred Tennyson, "The Lady of Shalott"
Dedication
For Shirley
First words
Tendrils of raw fog floated up from the ice like agonized spirits departing their bodies.
Quotations
Feely and Daffy didn't believe in Father Christmas, which, I suppose, is precisely the reason he always brought them such dud gifts: scented soap, generally, and dressing gowns and slipper sets that looked and felt as if they had been cut from Turkey carpet.
Father Christmas, they had told me, again and again, was for children.

'He's no more than a cruel hoax perpetrated by parents who wish to shower gifts upon their icky offspring without having to actually touch them,' Daffy had insisted last year. 'He's a myth. Take my word for it. I am, after all, older than you, and I know about these things.'

Did I believe her? I wasn't sure. When I was able to get away on my own and think about it without tears springing to my eyes, I had applied my rather considerable deductive skills to the problem, and come to the conclusion that my sisters were lying. Someone, after all, had brought the glassware, hadn't they?
...To Father we were, Daffy had once said, a three-headed Hydra, each one of our faces a misty mirror of his past.

Daffy's a romantic, but I knew what she meant: We were fleeting images of Harriet.

Perhaps that was why Father spent his days and nights among his postage stamps: surrounded by thousands of companionable, comforting, unquestioning countenances, not one of which, like those of his daughters, mocked him from morning to night. (chapter 3)
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
"The title of the fourth Flavia de Luce Mystery has been announced by Random House. It is … “I Am Half-Sick of Shadows”... This title supercedes the previously-announced “Death In Camera”.
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Book description
Eleven-year-old detective Flavia de Luce's family allows a film crew to shoot a movie on their estate. When the lead actress turns up dead, Flavia sorts through clues, trying to solve the murder.
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