There isn't much about this dark but funny, quirky mystery series that I haven't said already in previous reviews. Since I first read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, the first installment in the Flavia de Luce mystery series, I have been hooked. The books' redoubtable protagonist, the brilliant 11-year-old chemist, Flavia, has become one of my all-time favorite fictional characters, and the series is the best kind, in which the stories are compelling in and of themselves, but it is the characters in the books that keep me coming back for more.
In this installment, Flavia discovers that her father, beset by overwhelming debts, has had to rent their rambling estate, Buckshaw, to a film production company. Instead of the traditional holiday season they had been expecting, Flavia and her family will be hosting an entire film crew, including a very famous actress. Flavia is beside herself with excitement - and when a murder happens, she is in the thick of things and is determined to discover the culprit.
I recommended the series to a customer at my library a few years ago, even though he typically reads a lot of dense nonfiction books, because I thought the protagonist and the intelligence and humor of the books would appeal to him. Don't get me wrong, though - while the books never fail to make me laugh out loud, they can also be dark and disturbing, and Flavia's situation is downright heartbreaking at times. At any rate, he loves the books and periodically stops by the reference desk to see if another one is in the works. He made a comment to me the other day that got me thinking, though. He said, "It's hard to convince people to read these books." And he's right. Many people cannot get past the fact that the protagonist is a child, even though the books are targeted at adults. I've recommended the series to people who immediately dismiss it out of hand, as soon as they hear the premise, and that's too bad. Because I've never had anyone read it who hasn't enjoyed it. I wish more people would give it a try.
And here is an example of Flavia's storytelling style. I strongly recommend the audio versions of this series - Jayne Entwistle is Flavia de Luce's voice, as far as I'm concerned. I wouldn't ever bother to read one of these books for myself. That's how good she is.
"Most chemists, whether they admit it or not, have a favorite corner of their craft in which they are forever tinkering, and mine is poisons. 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."
Books in the Flavia de Luce series:
4. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (#4 in the Flavia de Luce series) by Alan Bradley; narrated by Jayne Entwistle (Books on Tape, 2011)
Also reviewed at:
A Bookworm's World: "Although the murder plot line is good, for this reader, it is the characters that Bradley has created that capture and hold my interest the most. I love the quirky inhabitants of the village, the sparring sisters and how we learn a little bit more with each book about some of them."
Becky's Book Reviews: "I just LOVE this character. I am not sure this is the best Flavia de Luce novel in the series. But. It is so much fun to spend time with a character that you love."
Lesa's Book Critiques: "... those of us who enjoy these mysteries return time and again for Flavia de Luce, the lonely eleven-year-old with a passion for poisons and a propensity for crime investigation."