I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley arrived in my mailbox early last week. I looked at it and put it down, determined to save it for reading closer to Christmas. Looked at it again the next day and hid it under a couch cushion. But to no avail as I knew it was there and I just couldn't wait until December to devour the latest in the Flavia De Luce series.
For those of you unfamiliar with this utterly delightful series, I'll give you some background. It is 1950. Flavia is eleven years old and lives with her father and two older sisters in the crumbling old family home in Bishop's Lacey, England. Flavia has a penchant for cooking up chemical concoctions in the chemistry lab in the far off east wing. She considers herself on par with the local constabulary and often offers her assistance.
"While I could still become quite excited by recalling how I had dyed my sister Feely's knickers a distinctive Malay yellow by boiling them in a solution of lead acetate, followed by a jolly good stewing in a solution of potassium chromate, what really made my heart leap up with joy was my ability to produce a makeshift but handy poison by scraping the vivid green verdigris form the copper floatball of one of Buckshaw's Victorian toilet tanks."
I absolutely adore the character of Flavia! I've said it before and I'll say it again...."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.
You can see my reviews of the first three Flavia books - 1, 2 and 3. I can't wait for the next book in this planned six book series - Seeds of Antiquity. Highly, highly recommended! Maybe Saint Nick will leave a copy at your house this year!
Keep up with all things Flavia at her fan club! Read an excerpt of I Am Half-Sick of Shadows.