I’ve had a bit of bad luck recently when choosing books to read. This whole year, actually, has been filled with not-so-great (for me) reads. It’s been a delicate balance of slogging through to find some redemption in a book’s ending, and knowing when to cut my losses and move on.
Generally I cut my losses when the book is from the library and I haven’t shelled out for the book myself.
The point is my (self-described) flawless literary taste has been in question.
Which is why it was such a relief to jump into a book that I knew I would love, and that didn’t disappoint.
I am talking about the 4th installment of the Flavia de Luce series. More officially known as the Buckshaw Chronicles.
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows follows in the genius footsteps of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag, and A Red Herring Without Mustard. It is just as brilliant and possibly funnier than the others.
I am properly obsessed with this series, and especially with Flavia herself. The titles alone! Come on.
For those of you that are not in the know (and I insist you run out and educate yourselves immediately), the Buckshaw Chronicles tell the tale of 11 year old chemistry prodigy, Flavia de Luce who lives in an old English manor with her absentee dad and horrid sisters in the years following World War II. They have no money, her father is more interested in collecting stamps than his daughters and dead bodies keep turning up in the village.
In the latest installment, Colonel de Luce (Flavia’s dad) rents out the house to a film crew. They are always in need of some extra funds and this seemed like a relatively painless way to make some money. The crew descends on the manor and all sorts of characters turn up. The whole town ends up at the house for a Christmas Eve show when the vicar convinces the movie’s star to put on a performance.
And that’s when the dead body turns up.
That’s about all I will say about the main plot points. What fun is reading a murder mystery when you already know how it ends? None at all.
I will say that Flavia is in top form in this installment. I was laughing my head off at the audacity of an 11 year old girl inserting herself in a murder investigation. And some of the things that come out of her mouth! She is hysterical. In a totally dry, British humour kind of way. I adore her.
A British film crew in the years following the Second World War provided ample opportunity for all sorts of characters with all kinds of histories to drop into the story. Alan Bradley certainly took advantage.
The excellent news here is that since I waited so long to read I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (I wanted it in paperback to match the others), I won’t have to wait too long for the 5th book to come out. Speaking From Among the Bones is due out in early 2013. And if you are looking to familiarize yourself with the first half of the series, I saw that the first three books have been combined into a handy first volume: The Buckshaw Chronicles.
I was thinking earlier today how fantastic it would be to hear that these books were going to be turned into a movie or mini-series and just now, what do I find? This article from May that says just that! By the same production company responsible for Call The Midwife! I’m in heaven!