I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
Published by Delacorte Press ISBN 978-0385344012
I read the first Flavia de Luce novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, when it published a few years back and enjoyed it. This is the fourth installment, and the second book in the series I have read. The de Luce family, Flavia, her two older sisters Daphne and Ophelia and their father have fallen on hard financial times and must rent out their English estate to a film crew to avoid losing their home. British film star Phyllis Wyvern is in the movie and takes a shine to Flavia.
The murder doesn't take place until halfway through the novel, so when it does happen, we have gotten to know both the deceased and many of the suspects. Flavia is a British Nancy Drew, with a dash of CSI thrown in, as she has a laboratory in her wing of the estate. Although she is just eleven years old, she has helped the police before, and hopes to solve this case while everyone in town is trapped on her family's estate by a snowstorm.
Fans of Jacqueline Winspear's post WWI Maisie Dobbs series will like this series; it has some of the same sensibilities, although it strives for more humor. The setting is post-WWII, and like the Dobbs series, the war has repercussions to the story. The character of Dogger, a war compatriot of Flavia's father and Flavia's best friend, reminds me of Maisie's assistant Billy. They have both been physically and emotionally scarred by war, and they are very loyal to their bosses.
Like the Dobbs series, the author throws in lots of slang, which is fun to read. Flavia speaks of ''having a dekko of her own" (looking around), and taking a "quick jaunt to the jakes" (bathroom). I love learning new (or rather old) slang.
Flavia's family doesn't play a big part in this book, but perhaps that is because Flavia doesn't really have a close relationship to them, and the story is told from her viewpoint. I would like to know more about her sisters, especially Daphne, the lover of reading. We do learn more about her aunt, who ends up having some information important to the resolution of the murder. The identity of the killer and the reason behind it is surprising; I'm not sure anyone could guess who or why.
While this cozy mystery is not a YA book, it will appeal to young girls. They will like Flavia's unconventional personality and her ability to get herself in and out of trouble. I liked it, and it was a good little story to read by the fire on a cold winter's day.