I am Half-sick of Shadows

(2011)
I am Half-sick of Shadows

Flavia de Luce is eleven years old, one of three motherless sisters living in 1950s England. She takes an extreme interest in chemistry--especially poisons--and fortunately is in possession of her Uncle Tar's laboratory where she can make use of the information she discovers. In the first three books she deals with a corpse in the cucumber patch, cruel pranks by her older sisters, and gets involved in mysteries involving old murder investigations, puppet theaters, and gypsies.

The fourth book, the title taken from the poem The Lady of Shalott, takes place just before Christmas. Money has gotten so tight that Flavia's father has rented Buckshaw, their family home, to a film company. Meanwhile, Flavia has reached the age where she is not so sure that Father Christmas is real and has formulated a plan to prove his existence once and for all.

This book is somewhere between Harriet the Spy and Sherlock Holmes. It is full of period details, delicious humor, and definitely a book to recommend. The audio version is wonderful -- Jane Entwhistle does a great job of portraying Flavia’s enthusiasm and moods, as well as those of the other characters.

Author Alan Bradley was 70 years old at the time of his debut novel, which won him the 2007 Dagger Award. He did not plan to write with a young girl as a main character, but Flavia appeared on a chair near the road when his detective came to Buckshaw and took over the story.

The first three titles in the series are The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, and A Red Herring Without Mustard.

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