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I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (2011)

  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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I Am Half-Sick of Shadows – Alan Bradley
4 stars

"Tendrils of raw fog floated up from the ice like agonized spirits departing their bodies."
Alan Bradley gets me every time. Flavia is asleep; she is having a dream. But, I completely buy into it; right up to the “GOTHCHA !” when she wakes up. The thing is, Flavia’s behavior in dreams is only slightly more outrageous than her waking behavior.

It is Christmastime at Buckshaw. The house has been rented to a film company in an attempt to fend off the debt collectors. The village comes to attend a charity performance. All and sundry are stranded by a blizzard. There is a murder. It’s a situation straight out of Agatha Christie. However, we must do without Miss Marple, and stand back with delight while Flavia goes to work.

The murder certainly adds to Flavia’s work load. Her Christmas preparations already include: setting a birdlime trap for Father Christmas to establish once and for all the question of his existence, and mixing gunpowder with various other dangerous chemicals to produce a Christmas Eve fireworks spectacular. ("It was important to keep in mind the fact that winter fireworks required a different formula than those designed for summer, The basic idea was this: less sulfur and lots more gunpowder.")

There are some rough spots in this story. A character from a previous book drops in for no particular reason other than to give birth. The villains and their motives are either poorly developed or become secondary to the delightful workings of Flavia’s devious, precocious brain.

It’s holiday time Flavia style. Merry Christmas!
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
The fourth installment in the Flavia de Luce series was just the ticket. Flavia's sisters have terrorized her in the previous books, and here we find them telling her that Father Christmas is nothing more than a myth. To prove them wrong, she has devised a plan to catch him in the act of coming down the chimney, when her father informs the family that they are about out of money and a film company has offered to pay them a huge sum for the use of the manor. The entire cast and crew arrive in a snowstorm and proceed to take over the house. The vicar asks the star Philis Wyven if she and her costar Duncan Desmond will perform a scene from Romeo and Juliet for the village folk in order to raise money for repairs to the church. The people of the village are all stranded at the manor, a murder is commited, and Flavia goes about "helping" the inspector solve the crime.

These books are not great literature, but they are a lot of fun. ( )
  NanaCC | May 16, 2016 |
When a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, Flavia De Luce is just one of the many excited fans who can't wait to catch a glimpse of the famous actors. But when tragedy strikes, Flavia might be the only one who can unravel the mystery.

I love any book that features a morbid eleven year old chemist. This is not the best in the series, though--the mystery was properly odd but is resolved seemingly very quickly, with very little detective work required. I love these little glimpses into the odd De Luce household, but I wish this one had a little more meat to it. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Of course I enjoyed I Am Half-Sick of Shadows every bit as much as the first three Flavia de Luce mysteries.

The goings-on at Buckshaw when a film company descends upon it just before Christmas are mostly fun (until the murder). Flavia has a plan to trap Father Christmas that plays an important role in the climax. (It's a pity that climax hasn't been filmed. I'd love to see it.)

There are hints of later plots and subplots, including a revelation about Aunt Felicity. We get to find out how some characters from an earlier book are faring.

It is a shame about the finances at Buckshaw, but has our author presented a solution?


Chapter One:

a. Lady Day is one of the quarter days in England. I'm not sure whether the date is 25 March or 6 April.

b. Neville and Charlie were the two young men who photographed Buckshaw inside and out a couple of months ago.

Chapter Two:

a. A pantechnicon is roughly similar to what we in the USA call a moving van.

b. Some of Buckshaw's rooms named here are the dining room, firearms museum, morning room, Rose Room, Blue Room, the drawing room, the Colonel's study. The portrait gallery is in the East Wing.

c. Flavia mentions her ancestress, Countess Daisy, and the unusual way she was supposed to have greeted visitors to Buckshaw.

d. 'Tinned beef' is the Colonel's code word meaning he needs to borrow money for train and taxi fare.

e. According to Mrs. Mullet, the parquet floor of the portrait gallery is made of cherry wood, mahogany, walnut, birch, and six different kinds of oak.

f. The room at the south end of the west wing corridor is Harriet's boudoir. Daphne and Ophelia's bedrooms are two on the left.

g. Feely talks about Harriet's African Grey parrot, Sinbad, but she may have made that up.

h. Phyllis Wyvern mentions reading about Flavia in the 'Daily Mirror'. For the 'dreadful business about Bonepenny,' see the first book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

Chapter Three:

a. Phyllis Wyvern, after meeting Feely, makes a remark about older sisters.

b. Lardy cake is made with bread dough, lard, sugar, spices, and dried fruit. (Sounds like the stollen loaves my mom made every Christmas.)

c. Flavia tells us the part about Keats' 'Ode to a Nightingale' that she's never forgotten.

d. Flavia is talking about Ovaltine, the milk flavoring product, although she doesn't say which flavor she's drinking. Never mind the Urban Dictionary definition.

e. For the story about Harriet's portrait, see book three, A Red Herring Without Mustard. (In that book Flavia says the portrait was put in her laboratory two weeks after she brought it home, not the next day.)

Chapter Four:

a. The song Phyllis is singing is Felix Mendelssohn's hymn, 'Hear My Prayer,' also known as 'O, for the Wings, for the Wings of a Dove." You may find versions of it on Youtube.

b. This is where the vicar tells Flavia from whom he learned about using both winter tires and snow chains.

c. The vicar reveals that his wife, Cynthia, is the cousin of Stella Ferrars, who wrote 'Cry of the Raven', the novel on which the film is to be based.

d. Flavia learns that Cynthia suffers from migraines.

Chapter Five:

a. We get a description of Val Lampman and Flavia's opinion of his appearance.

b. Flavia talks about the poison found in holly and the different states of water.

Chapter Six:

a. According to Daffy, Flavia called the gramophone the 'grampaphone' when she was younger.

b. If you have ever watched old cartoons, you're probably familiar with Edvard Grieg's 'Morning' (also known as 'Morning Mood'). Check Youtube.

c. The picture of a dog that Flavia thinks is lovely was Francis Barraud's 1889 painting of his late brother's terrier, Nipper, 'Dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph,' probably as modified to show one of The Gramophone Company's machines. I knew it as 'His Master's Voice,' the trademark of the now-defunct Radio Corporation of America, better known as the RCA. It was on some of my parents' phonograph records (vinyl precursor to compact discs). Even when I was a little girl (born 1954), record players were electric, not hand cranked, as Flavia's gramophone is.

d. Flavia describes her Aunt Felicity's normal outfit and the equipment she usually has in it.

e. See chapter three of A Red Herring Without Mustard for the cellar inquisition incident.

Chapter Seven:

a. The line about 'three bags full' that Dogger uses comes from the nursery rhyme 'Baa, Baa, Black Sheep'.

b. We learn that Dogger spent at least part of his childhood in India, where he decorated a mango tree for Christmas.

c. Flavia misplaced a thimbleful of arsenic, Dogger tells her where he found it.

Chapter Eight:

a. Flavia tells us about lead and 'painter's colic'. She's planning to write a pamphlet about plumbism.

b. Flavia doesn't understand, but envies, her father and the vicar's chumminess. We also learn her father's reaction when she offered to whip up some nascent oxygen should he need it.

c. Daffy's left earlobe twitches when she's upset.

d. See book two, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, for Flavia's previous acquaintance with Nialla Gilfoyle. Here we learn the fate of the puppet show.

Chapter Nine:

a. The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag is also where one may learn about what happened with the Inglebys of Culverhouse Farm and why Dieter says what he does about Mrs. Ingleby.

b. Dieter talks about Christmas in Germany.

c. Look here for the words Gil Crawford taught to Flavia so she could handle her lab's high-voltage instruments safely.

d. Why Flavia feels she owes Gil's wife, Martha, a favor.

e. How Flavia helps Dogger when he has one of his [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] attacks.

Chapter Ten:

a. Flavia is sure what sheet music the Puddock sisters are carrying in the hopes they'll be able to perform at Bradshaw.

b. Here we get the Colonel's reaction to the Christmas gift American Carl Pendracka gave to Feely. (I'm not sure whether Carl is being ignorant for the period, or the Colonel is being old-fashioned. It would have been okay if Carl had been engaged to or married to Feely.)

c. The vicar reads a list of Phyllis Wyvern's film appearances.

Chapter Eleven:

a. Flavia overhears the vicar whisper, 'Hannah, please! No!' in his sleep.

b. Flavia says the pipes at Buckshaw were past their prime when Queen Victoria was on the throne. (heh)

Chapter Twelve:

a. Phyllis was in the Blue Bedroom.

b. Flavia uses a phrase from the radio show detective, Philip Odell [a real program].

c. Dieter borrows some skis that were probably Harriet's. He says they are Madshus, made in Norway.

d. What Aunt Felicity gave to Feely for her 18th birthday.

e. Flavia tells us what she uses to make her fireworks. She hints at something that happened to a former governess, Miss Gurdy.

Chapter Thirteen:

a. Flavia tells us the name of her orthodontist and what she calls his office.

b. Flavia explains why she prefers to call Feely's suitors her 'swains'.

c. Aunt Felicity explains why the vicar has organized a snow-shoveling party. (Heh!)

d. We learn about Flavia's dreadful faux-pas when Antigone Hewitt had her for tea.

d. Feely holds court with her four suitors.

Chapter Fifteen:

a. A blessed event takes place in the Tennyson bedroom at Buckshaw.

b. Flavia describes a tapestry in the guest room next to the Blue bedroom.

Chapter Fifteen: Flavia finds Phyllis Wyvern's driver's license and speculates.

Chapter Sixteen: Flavia's prayer for the intercession of St. Genesius is to St. Genesius of Rome, not St. Genesius of Arles (he's the patron saint of notaries).

Chapter Seventeen:

a. Daffy and Flavia (and probably Feely) have visited Westminster Abbey. Flavia mentions the grave of Tom Parr. Note Daffy's greed and Flavia's dishonesty.

b. Flavia does some research in the 1946 Who's Who.

c. A very interesting discovery is made in Buckshaw's library.

Chapter Eighteen:

a. Flavia has a confidential conversation with her Aunt Felicity in which she learns quite a few things as well as some suggestive information about her aunt's past.

b. Flavia does research among old movie magazines in the cupboard under the stairs.

Chapter Nineteen: Flavia favors us with a mnemonic she learned in the Girl Guides. (This time she tells us it was insubordination that got her cashiered out of that organization.)

Chapter Twenty:

a. Flavia mentions she found the 'Royal Salute' fireworks recipe in one of her Uncle Tar[quin]'s notebooks. Apparently, she's put together what went wrong at the 1749 premiere and the rehearsal six days earlier.

b. Flavia remembers Mrs. Mullet's warning about sudden chills.

c. The lines of Christmas singing Flavia hears are from the first verse of 'Oh Little Town of Bethlehem".

Chapter Twenty-One: Flavia remembers looking at one of her mother's watercolor sketchbooks from her days at Miss Bodycote's Female Academy in Toronto in 1930.

Chapter Twenty-Two:

a. Inspector Hewitt compares the situation to something from Agatha Christie.

b. Flavia tells us Dogger's explanation when she asked him what 'having an affair' meant. (No wonder she's still not sure what that means.)

c. Inspector Hewitt conveys his wife's compliment on Harriet's display in chapter twenty-one. He adds some remarks of his own that made me laugh.

d. 'Consumption' is an old name for tuberculosis.

e. 'Happy Families' is a real card game.

f. We learn more about the library discovery from chapter seventeen.

If you've loved any of the other Flavia de Luce books, you'll probably love this one! ( )
  JalenV | Feb 27, 2016 |
I adore this series! As long as Mr. Bradley goes on writing of Flavia's adventures, I will be along for the ride. ( )
  Gingermama | Jan 24, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 132 (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 (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bradley, Alanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bassett, JeffAuthor photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Entwistle, JayneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hobbing, DianeDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Montgomery, JoeCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perini, BenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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...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"
For Shirley
First words
Tendrils of raw fog floated up from the ice like agonized spirits departing their bodies.
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)
COPYRIGHT PAGE NOTICES (for the hardcover first edition):

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Library of Congress cataloging-in-publication data are provided.

First printing of first edition line: 2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3 1
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(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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"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)

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