I Am Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

In order to save Buckshaw, the de Luce family home, Flavia de Luce’s father, the perennially broke Haviland de Luce, has agreed to host a movie filming. The production company was looking for a grand but somewhat gloomy home, and Buckshaw fit the bill. The film crew arrives for the holidays, and with it comes Phyllis Wyvern, the beautiful star of stage and screen. Flavia is at once enchanted, but it quickly becomes clear that the other members of the crew may not be so taken with the famous diva. Naturally, Phyllis winds up dead, and Flavia takes it upon herself to determine the culprit.
I’m a big fan of the Flavia de Luce novels. She’s got one of the best voices I’ve read in a protagonist lately, and the ancillary characters are well drawn. Flavia’s relationships with her family members (both immediate and extended) are written particularly well, and they’re expanded upon with each novel, which gives the series a cohesive feel. While each mystery can stand alone, the relationships build upon each other.
The mysteries themselves are generally good, but I was a bit let down by this most recent one. Firstly, it seems pretty similar in concept to one of its predecessors, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag. In both, a famous entertainer comes to stay at Bishop’s Lacey and ends up murdered. But while the mystery in Hangman’s Bag is multi-layered with interesting subplots and red herrings, the mystery in Flavia’s most recent adventure is pretty simplistic with almost no subplots and a solution that’s puzzling due to the lack of clues.
This is not to say the book is bad. I certainly enjoyed it quite a lot, but it seemed a bit like Bradley chopped out about 75 pages somewhere 2/3 of the way through. In that missing section, he would have included more clues that eventually led the reader to the culprit as well as explanations of the red herrings he introduced and then dropped.
I get so frustrated when an author seems to just drop a storyline, however small, with no explanation. There’s nothing wrong with a continuing arc for series books, but when the mystery is supposed to be wrapped up in a single installment, I expect all clues to be explained. I also expect to be able to re-read the book and pick up on clues I may have missed before. That’s almost impossible here – I’m still a bit befuddled at how Flavia figured it all out.
Flavia’s voice is as good as ever, of course, and the family drama aspect continues to shine. I still motored through the book in under 24 hours and I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next. Part of the problem is I have rather high expectations, so when they aren’t met, it’s more disappointing.
Book borrowed from my local library. I Am Half Sick of Shadows is available now.
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  1. says

    I'm getting behind in this series. I love Flavia, and I listened to one of the books on audio. There's a great narrator, so I highly recommend the audio if you like that sort of thing.

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