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I Am Half-Sick of Shadows [Hardcover]

Alan Bradley
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 1 2011
What better Christmas surprise for detective-in-training Flavia de Luce than a dreadful murder under Buckshaw's roof - and a snowbound house full of suspects!

It's Christmas time, and our beloved Flavia is tucked away in her laboratory whipping up a sticky concoction to trap that infamous sneak, Saint Nick, and thereby prove once and for all - despite the claims of her evil sisters - that he does exist. But she is soon distracted from her task: Colonel de Luce, in desperate need of funds, has rented the family's crumbling manor house to a film company for the holidays. When its crew arrives from London to shoot a movie starring the reclusive and renowned actress, Phyllis Wyvern, there's no end to the disruptions - and dramas - demanding Flavia's attention.

When Wyvern is convinced to perform a famous scene to help raise funds for the local church, it is decided that Buckshaw Manor is the only suitable location. Its foyer alone is bigger than the parish hall, and could fit every man, woman, and child in Bishop's Lacey, to a soul. It's almost Christmas Eve, but - to no one's surprise - all of the village inhabitants fight their way through a raging snowstorm to be in the audience that magical night.

As the actors take to the stage, however, the blizzard sets in, and it becomes clear that the villagers will have to hunker down at Buckshaw for the night. Sleeping head to toe in the de Luces' foyer seems amenable to most, until word spreads of the evening's shocking conclusion - Phyllis Wyvern is found strangled to death in the Blue Bedroom, with a length of film from one of her movies tied in an elaborate bow around her neck.

But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of her chemical cleverness and crime-solving prowess to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight. But when she does piece the puzzle together and deduce who has committed this twisted crime, will Flavia be able to escape in one piece?

Frequently Bought Together

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows + Speaking From Among the Bones: A Flavia de Luce Novel + The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches
Price For All Three: CDN$ 56.31

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Product Description


“With its sharply drawn characters, including the hiss-worthy older de Luce sisters, and an agreeable puzzle playing out against the cozy backdrop of a British village at Christmas, this is a most welcome holiday gift for Flavia fans.”
Publishers Weekly

“That serial charmer Flavia, wreathed in Tennyson and Shakespeare.” 
Kirkus Reviews
“We find in Flavia an incorrigible and wholly lovable detective; from her chemical experiments in her sanctum sanctorum to her outrage at the idiocy of the adult world, she is unequaled.”
Library Journal (starred review)

Selected praise for Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books:
“Think of Flavia as a new Sherlock in the making.”
, on A Red Herring Without Mustard
“Bradley is a writer of great charm and insight, and he infuses even minor characters with incredible personality . . . Flavia de Luce, both eleven and ageless, is a marvel and a delight.”
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, on The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
”A wickedly clever story, a dead-true and original voice, and an English country house in the summer: Alexander McCall Smith meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Please, please, Mr. Bradley, tell me we’ll be seeing Flavia again soon?”
—Laurie R. King, bestselling author of Pirate King, on The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

About the Author

Alan Bradley was born in Toronto and grew up in Cobourg, Ontario. With an education in electronic engineering, Alan worked at numerous radio and television stations in Ontario, and at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University) in Toronto before becoming Director of Television Engineering in the media centre at the University of Saskatchewan, where he worked for twenty-five years before taking early retirement in 1994.

Bradley was the first President of the Saskatoon Writers, and a founding member of the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild. His children's stories were published in The Canadian Children's Annual and his short story "Meet Miss Mullen" was the first recipient of the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild Award for Children's Literature.

For a number of years, he regularly taught scriptwriting and television production courses at the University of Saskatchewan. His fiction has been published in literary journals, and he has given many public readings in schools and galleries. His short stories have been broadcast by CBC Radio, and his lifestyle and humour pieces have appeared in The Globe and Mail and The National Post.

Alan Bradley was also a founding member of The Casebook of Saskatoon, a society devoted to the study of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockian writings. There, he met the late Dr. William A.S. Sarjeant, with whom he collaborated on the classic book Ms. Holmes of Baker Street (1989). This work put forth the startling theory that the Great Detective was a woman, and was greeted upon publication with what has been described as "a firestorm of controversy." As he's explained in interviews, Bradley was always an avid reader of mysteries, even as a child, "My grandmother used to press them upon us when we were very young. One of the first books she gave me was Dorothy L. Sayers' Busman's Holiday. I was profoundly influenced by it."

Upon retirement, Bradley began writing full time. His next book, The Shoebox Bible (2006), has been compared with Tuesdays with Morrie and Mr. God, This is Anna. In this beautiful memoir, Bradley tells the story of his early life in southern Ontario and paints a vivid portrait of his mother, a strong and inspirational woman who struggled to raise three children on her own during tough times.

In July of 2007, Bradley won the Debut Dagger Award from the British Crime Writers' Association for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (2009), based on just a few pages that would become the first novel in a series featuring eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce. As Bradley has explained, it was the character of Flavia that inspired him to embark upon the project, "I started to write The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie in the spring of 2006. Flavia had walked into another novel I was writing as an incidental character, and she hijacked the book. Although I didn't finish that book, Flavia stuck with me." The Dagger Award brought international attention to Bradley's fiction debut, and since then he has won numerous awards, including the Agatha, the Macavity, the Dilys, the Barry, and the Arthur Ellis. The second and third books in the Flavia de Luce series - The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag and A Red Herring Without Mustard - were also met with great success, and the release of I Am Half-Sick of Shadows is much anticipated. So far, all of the novels in the series have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. They have been translated into more than thirty languages and have sold more than half a million copies worldwide.

Alan Bradley lives in Malta with his wife Shirley and two calculating cats. He is currently working on the fifth novel starring Flavia de Luce.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bradley Has Outdone Himself! Dec 4 2011
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Reason for Reading: next in the series.

Oh, the sweet pure pleasure of reading a Flavia de Luce mystery, the witty and wise 11yo chemist with a propensity for poisons. Book 4 in the series is as fresh and original as book 1 and, I think at this point, my favourite in the series. Making a great Christmas gift as our action takes place on Christmas Eve this is sure to please fans and newcomers alike. Fans will be pleased to see familiar faces but newcomers won't miss a thing just jumping in with this series. A great character study and return to the traditional British mystery, Bradley has the Christie flair down to a "T". The book entices us with two mysteries actually as the murder does not take place until 2/3s of the way into the book. While the reader is kept guessing as to who will be murdered for the larger part of the book they are then rewarded with a splendid crime that has members of Flavia's own family on her list of suspects and her own life in danger at the climax. Bradley has outdone himself! If you have mystery lovers on your Christmas list, consider them taken care of!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I adore Flavia! Nov. 9 2011
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley arrived in my mailbox early last week. I looked at it and put it down, determined to save it for reading closer to Christmas. Looked at it again the next day and hid it under a couch cushion. But to no avail as I knew it was there and I just couldn't wait until December to devour the latest in the Flavia De Luce series.

For those of you unfamiliar with this utterly delightful series, I'll give you some background. It is 1950. Flavia is eleven years old and lives with her father and two older sisters in the crumbling old family home in Bishop's Lacey, England. Flavia has a penchant for cooking up chemical concoctions in the chemistry lab in the far off east wing. She considers herself on par with the local constabulary and often offers her assistance.

"While I could still become quite excited by recalling how I had dyed my sister Feely's knickers a distinctive Malay yellow by boiling them in a solution of lead acetate, followed by a jolly good stewing in a solution of potassium chromate, what really made my heart leap up with joy was my ability to produce a makeshift but handy poison by scraping the vivid green verdigris form the copper floatball of one of Buckshaw's Victorian toilet tanks."

Flavia's father has struggled with the upkeep of Buckshaw. He has reluctantly agreed to host a film crew over the holidays. Film star Phyllis Wyvern is in attendance and offers to be the star in a fundraiser to be held at Buckshaw. The entire village troops to the mansion, but are snowed in. And when a dead body is found, any one of the attendees could be the murderer...

And of course, since it's happening right under her nose, Flavia must jump in. "In my eleven years of life I've seen a number of corpses.
Read more ›
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3.0 out of 5 stars Continues the Flavia de Luce series Jan. 27 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Eleven year old sleuth, Flavia de Luce embarks upon solving a mysterious death that the local bumbling constabulary cannot. A few good twists and turns.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great series Dec 30 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read the first book in this series and was captivated. I have now read all the books in the series and am waiting on more to come.The plots are well thought out, the heroine is young and decidedly different. I enjoyed the humor and the character insights
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Adventure Aug. 18 2013
By Lady Sam TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Looking at the thickness of the book and amount of pages, this one is only two thirds the size of the last Flavia de Luce adventure. However, the full 'case load' and mystery is still there!
This story starts just before Christmas, with the usual dysfunctional family affairs, money problems and ghosts of the past - though, this time round, a film crew is about to take over Buckshaw (home of our teenage sleuth) in order to stimulate the cash flow. As the cast and crew arrive, the reader is treated to introductions of several of the main players in fair detail, while others remain murky borderline and thus suspect already.
It is not until almost half-way through the tale that the unavoidable crime occurs - nonetheless, the story itself and all the characters involved keep the reader gripped and virtually unable to put the book down. And, as usual, of course, there are plenty of sub-plots going on - is there a Father Christmas? Can I catch him? - to keep the mystery going and the tale to be told interesting and intriguing.
As always, the family members keep bickering at each other - stiff upper lip and all that - but, deep down, they would never let anything happen to one another ... just like in real life families.
Our heroine, Flavia de Luce, is definitely a 'different breed' to the others, an individual - even at her very young age - who will go her way, no matter what. And, quite frankly, I do hope, she'll never grow out of it! And - yes - author Alan Bradley is now working on Flavia's next adventure, I, for one, cannot wait to read it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great fireside read... perfect for the holidays Jan. 2 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I totally loved this book... and the fact that it's part of an ongoing series is a bonus.
I've read them all and enjoyed each one immensely.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little short, but still a gem Dec 2 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is another in the amazing Flavia series and is a worthy successor. It was a little short, the readable pages logging in at around 195 pages or so. Nevertheless the art of building the environment and creating a liveable breathable world is strong in I am Half Sick of Shadows.

Bradley's characters are all rich, particularly if you've read the earlier books, but even if you haven't this book will be a very pleasant diversion. Flavia is presently one of my favourite characters from any medium. Give it a chance, give the book to to your 9 and up kids or adults in your life and help them find an intelligent but fun way to spend their time. I do think any Harry Potter fan should give this series a chance, there is no magic but there is Alchemy and you will love the characters as much as you loved those from that series; frankly, I prefer Flavia.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Read on Kindle
Another great read with unexpected twists. Buckshaws is cut off by a huge snow storm with a film cast and the village all present in time for the inevitable murder. Read more
Published 20 months ago by DavidN
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs to make Flavia grow older already!
How can one child experience so many murders in a small village in one year? Really, it's ok to let her grow up.
Published 20 months ago by family@118
5.0 out of 5 stars I'll never be sick of Flavia
First Sentence: Tendrils of raw fog floated up from the ice like agonized spirits departing their bodies. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2012 by L. J. Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Christmas treat!
I received this book in my stocking, and I've been having the most marvelous Christmas holiday reading it! This is my second favourite Flavia mystery after the first book! Read more
Published on Dec 30 2011 by Anthea
5.0 out of 5 stars The Continuing Adventures of Flavia de Lucy
Flavia de Lucy has grown on me from her first adventure to her Christmas antics, and I look forward to reading Alan Bradley's next story. Read more
Published on Nov. 27 2011 by scuba sally
5.0 out of 5 stars The Delightful Flavia De Luce Returns for a Fourth Book
"I Am Half-Sick of Shadows" is the fourth volume in Alan Bradley's marvelous Flavia de Luce series, and it lives up to its predecessors in sheer delight. Read more
Published on Nov. 13 2011 by Alison S. Coad
5.0 out of 5 stars SO HAPPY, FLAVIA'S BACK!
Do believe it was just about two years ago that Alan Bradley brightened my reading/listening life with his introduction of Flavia de Luce, an irresistible mixture of intelligence... Read more
Published on Nov. 12 2011 by Gail Cooke
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