Friday, November 25, 2011

Half-Sick of Shadows

Toronto: Doubleday Canada, c2011.
288 p.

This is the latest entry in the Flavia De Luce series (which I love) and it's set at Christmas, my favourite time of year. Plus it features glamorous film stars... even if they are a bit over the hill now. This story also shares a bit more background and adds depth to all the regular characters around the De Luce home. It was a delight, one which I read through in one sitting.

It's Christmas time and the De Luce finances aren't so great. So there is about to be a film crew moving in, to make a movie over the holidays. Buckshaw Manor is large enough for the film people to stay without interfering with family life too much, which turns out to be a good thing......once they've agreed to perform a small fundraising show in the lobby of Buckshaw, which nearly the entire village shows up for, a snowstorm also shows up. They are all snowed in, making space for a wonderful "closed room" style of mystery to take place.

Flavia also reveals her detecting and observational skills at a new level in this story -- along with mixing up some fireworks to celebrate Christmas, she provides a keen eye with which to watch the intermingling of locals, film crew members, and the 'stars' of the show. She also keeps a close eye on her two sisters, as usual. While they don't pull any dirty tricks on her in this particular book, it is probably because they are too busy trying to wangle a part as an extra in the movie (particularly Ophelia, the eldest).

Her father's valet/assistant/gardener/all-around dependable sidekick, Dogger, also gets a bit more play in this storyline. We discover new sides to him, as a few more shadings of his past are filled in for us. Possibilities for a Holmes/Watson relationship between he and Flavia seem richer than ever.
There have been a few comments I've noticed around the blog world about the general weakness of the plot, but I didn't much mind. It was enough of a mystery for me, because the characterizations of the movie crew and the locals and all of Flavia's circle were fascinating enough. The humour in Flavia's morbid fascination with death and poisons is as sharp as in each of the previous tales, and the scenes in which she exits from her secret staircase to the roof are wonderful. It's snowing, windy, freezing cold -- and yet out she goes to secure her fireworks. And then out she goes again near the end, unaware that she is being shadowed by a killer...

I really enjoyed this light read, and thought it was an excellent choice for holiday reading. Another perfect gift for someone this year, if you're still thinking about which book to buy for that mystery lover you know. Seasonal, amusing, charmingly period, with a touch of the macabre and deadly, this is a must for any Flavia fan.

I must also note that I really enjoy the consistency of cover design in this series. Each has an overall colour, with the same font and the same style of one big image that catches the eye on the front. Very, very aesthetically pleasing, especially as you line up the volumes on the shelf. And once again, a title which adds layers of resonance to the story, thanks to the poetic reference.


  1. I'm happy you enjoyed this one. I'm waiting for the next adventure of Flavia as well. Hoping to get the audio from the library soon.

  2. I love it when seasonal reading aligns like this; I haven't started this series yet, but have already gathered the first volume, so I should make a note and start reading next autumn so that this one is lined up for December 2012. Not that I'm planning that far ahead. ::cough:: Cuz that would just be way too obsessive.

  3. I really need to get back to this series. I have only read the first book...

  4. I also really enjoyed this one, and especially enjoyed the details about Dogger and the very, very touching Shakespeare recitation by the Colonel remembering Harriet. But now, the wait for the fifth has started. They go by too fast!

  5. I can't wait to get my copy from Random House (it got held up at the warehouse!). I am such a huge fan of this series and of Flavia as a character.

  6. Diane - I've never thought of trying this series on audio. Is the narrator good?

    Buried in Print - that is certainly planning ahead :) But there is so much to read that we do need to schedule some of it in so we remember to get to it!

    Kailana - lucky you, you have all of them ahead of you! :)

    Frances - wasn't it nice to get a little more depth to character of Dogger & the Colonel? I enjoyed the characters in this book so much.

    Wandering Coyote - yikes! I got mine via Random House as well but no delays! Hope you enjoy yours as soon as it arrives -- closer to Xmas, anyhow!

  7. What a fabulous review! We're so glad you love the series :)


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