I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

A Christmas-themed genteel mystery

It’s almost Christmas, but the finances of the de Luce family of Buckshaw are looking anything but merry.  So Colonel de Luce agrees to rent out the family home to a film company looking for the perfect English country house location.

Aside from the Colonel, the family and staff alike are excited to have the house filled with the glamour of the film crew, and even a few accidents don’t dampen their delight at having one of the silver screen’s most famous stars, Phyllis Wyvern, in their midst.

As Christmas approaches a charity evening performance is planned, and the residents of Bishop’s Lacey journey to Buckshaw for the event.  But as the snow falls, cutting them off from the outside world, a gruesome murder is discovered.

With all the suspects held captive by the weather, Flavia de Luce decides to do some investigation of her own.

This is the first of the Flavia de Luce series I’ve read.  Set in the 1950s, the story is peppered with larger-than-life characters of a bygone era.

The main character, Flavia, is a curious eleven year old, with rather too great a fascination with poisons.  A feisty and determined child, she sets out to investigate the murder in a manner that would make Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple proud.

To me, the story seemed like a cross between the Famous Five and an episode of Midsummer Murders.  It’s almost halfway into the book before the murder takes place, and alongside Flavia’s search to determine the killer, she is also planning a dramatic scientific experiment to prove the existence of Father Christmas once and for all.

This is a more whimsical style of story than I’m used to reading, and I enjoyed looking back with a nostalgic lens at a world devoid of the modern technology that now surrounds us.

It’s easy to read, and rather fun. But I couldn’t help wondering if it was aimed as much at the young adult market as it is for adults.

An ideal Christmas present for fans of the genre.



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