I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Flavia de Luce Series #4)

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Flavia de Luce Series #4)

by Alan Bradley

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Overview

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Flavia de Luce Series #4) by Alan Bradley

“Every Flavia de Luce novel is a reason to celebrate.”—USA Today
 
ALAN BRADLEY, AUTHOR OF THE MOST AWARD-WINNING SERIES DEBUT OF ANY YEAR, RETURNS WITH ANOTHER IRRESISTIBLE FLAVIA DE LUCE NOVEL.
 
“[Alan] Bradley has created one of the most original, charming, devilishly creative and hilarious detectives of any age or any time.”—Bookreporter
 
It’s Christmastime, and Flavia de Luce—an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry—is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.
 
“[Flavia is] the most intrepid and charming adolescent chemist/detective/busybody in all of rural, post–World War II England.”—The Seattle Times
 
“Quirky and delightful . . . Flavia is a classic literary character who manages to appeal to both young and old readers equally.”—Wichita Falls Times Record News
 
“Bradley’s plot twists and turns delightfully.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST MYSTERIES OF THE YEAR BY THE SEATTLE TIMES

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385344029
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/30/2012
Series: Flavia de Luce Series , #4
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 82,175
Product dimensions: 5.38(w) x 7.78(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Alan Bradley is the New York Times bestselling author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. His first Flavia de Luce novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Agatha Award, the Macavity Award, and the Barry Award, and was nominated for the Anthony Award. His other Flavia de Luce novels are The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, A Red Herring Without MustardI Am Half-Sick of ShadowsSpeaking from Among the Bones, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, and The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place, as well as the ebook short story “The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse.”

Read an Excerpt

Tendrils of raw fog floated up from the ice like agonized spirits departing their bodies. The cold air was a hazy, writhing mist.
 
Up and down the long gallery I flew, the silver blades of my skates making the sad scraping sound of a butcher’s knife being sharpened energetically on stone. Beneath the icy surface, the intricately patterned parquet of the hardwood floor was still clearly visible— even though its colors were somewhat dulled by diffraction.
 
Overhead, the twelve dozen candles I had pinched from the butler’s pantry and stuffed into the ancient chandeliers flickered madly in the wind of my swift passage. Round and round the room I went— round and round and up and down. I drew in great lungfuls of the biting air, blowing it out again in little silver trumpets of condensation.
 
When at last I came skidding to a stop, chips of ice flew up in a breaking wave of tiny colored diamonds.
 
 
It had been easy enough to flood the portrait gallery: An India- rubber garden hose snaked in through an open window from the terrace and left running all night had done the trick— that, and the bitter cold which, for the past fortnight, had held the countryside in its freezing grip.
 
Since nobody ever came to the unheated east wing of Buckshaw anyway, no one would notice my improvised skating rink— not, at least, until springtime, when it melted. No one, perhaps, but my oil- painted ancestors, row upon row of them, who were at this moment glaring sourly down at me from their heavy frames in icy disapproval of what I had done.
 
I blew them a loud, echoing raspberry tart and pushed off again into the chill mist, now doubled over at the waist like a speed skater, my right arm digging at the air, my pigtails fl ying, my left hand tucked behind my back as casually as if I were out for a Sunday stroll in the country.
 
How lovely it would be, I thought, if some fashionable photographer such as Cecil Beaton should happen by with his camera to immortalize the moment.
 
“Carry on just as you were, dear girl,” he would say. “Pretend I’m not here.” And I would fl y again like the wind round the vastness of the ancient paneled portrait gallery, my passage frozen now and again by the pop of a discreet flashbulb.
 
Then, in a week or two, there I would be, in the pages of Country Life or The Illustrated London News, caught in mid- stride— frozen forever in a determined and forwardlooking slouch.
 
Dazzling . . . delightful . . . de Luce,” the caption would read. “Eleven- year- old skater is poetry in motion.”
 
“Good lord!” Father would exclaim. “It’s Flavia!
 
“Ophelia! Daphne!” he would call, fl apping the page in the air like a paper fl ag, then glancing at it again, just to be sure. “Come quickly. It’s Flavia— your sister.”
 
At the thought of my sisters I let out a groan. Until then I hadn’t much been bothered by the cold, but now it gripped me with the sudden force of an Atlantic gale: the bitter, biting, paralyzing cold of a winter convoy— the cold of the grave.
 
I shivered from shoulders to toes and opened my eyes.
 
The hands of my brass alarm clock stood at a quarter past six.
 
Swinging my legs out of bed, I fi shed for my slippers with my toes, then, bundling myself in my bedding— sheets, quilt, and all— heaved out of bed and, hunched over like a corpulent cockroach, waddled towards the windows.
 
It was still dark outside, of course. At this time of year the sun wouldn’t be up for another two hours.
 
The bedrooms at Buckshaw were as vast as parade squares— cold, drafty spaces with distant walls and shadowy perimeters, and of them all, mine, in the far south corner of the east wing, was the most distant and the most desolate.
 
Because of a long and rancorous dispute between two of my ancestors, Antony and William de Luce, about the sportsmanship of certain military tactics during the Crimean War, they had divided Buckshaw into two camps by means of a black line painted across the middle of the foyer: a line which each of them had forbidden the other to cross. And so, for various reasons— some quite boring, others downright bizarre— at the time when other parts of the house were being renovated during the reign of King George V, the east wing had been left largely unheated and wholly abandoned.
 
The superb chemical laboratory built by his father for my great- uncle Tarquin, or “Tar,” de Luce had stood forgotten and neglected until I had discovered its treasures and made it my own. With the help of Uncle Tar’s meticulously detailed notebooks and a savage passion for chemistry that must have been born in my blood, I had managed to become quite good at rearranging what I liked to think of as the building blocks of the universe.
 
“Quite good?” a part of me is saying. “Merely ‘quite good’? Come off it, Flavia, old chum! You’re a bloody marvel, and you know it!”
 
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 from the copper float- ball of one of Buckshaw’s Victorian toilet tanks.
 
I bowed to myself in the looking glass, laughing aloud at the sight of the fat white slug-in-a-quilt that bowed back at me.
 
I leapt into my cold clothing, shrugging on at the last minute, on top of everything else, a baggy gray cardigan I had nicked from the bottom drawer of Father’s dresser. This lumpy monstrosity— swarming with khaki and maroon diamonds, like an overbaked rattlesnake— had been knitted for him the previous Christmas by his sister, Aunt Felicity
 
“Most thoughtful of you, Lissy,” Father had said, deftly dodging any outright praise of the ghastly garment itself. When I noticed in August that he still hadn’t worn the thing, I considered it fair game and it had, since the onset of cold weather, become my favorite.
 
The sweater didn’t fi t me, of course. Even with the sleeves rolled up I looked like a baggy monkey picking bananas. But to my way of thinking, at least in winter, woolly warmth trumps freezing fashion any day of the week.
 
I have always made it a point never to ask for clothing for Christmas. Since it’s a dead cert that you’ll get it anyway, why waste a wish?
 
Last year I had asked Father Christmas for some badly needed bits of laboratory glassware— had even gone to the trouble of preparing an itemized list of flasks, beakers, and graduated test tubes, which I tucked carefully under my pillow and, by the Lord Harry! he had brought them!
 
Feely and Daffy didn’t believe in Father Christmas, which, I suppose, is precisely the reason he always brought them such dud gifts: scented soap, generally, and dressing gowns and slipper sets that looked and felt as if they had been cut from Turkey carpet.
 
Father Christmas, they had told me, again and again, was for children.
 
“He’s no more than a cruel hoax perpetrated by parents who wish to shower gifts upon their icky offspring without having to actually touch them,” Daffy had insisted last year. “He’s a myth. Take my word for it. I am, after all, older than you, and I know about these things.”
 
Did I believe her? I wasn’t sure. When I was able to get away on my own and think about it without tears springing to my eyes, I had applied my rather considerable deductive skills to the problem, and come to the conclusion that my sisters were lying. Someone, after all, had brought the glassware, hadn’t they?
 
There were only five possible human candidates. My father, Colonel Haviland de Luce, was penniless, and was therefore out of the question, as was my mother, Harriet, who had died in a mountaineering accident when I was no more than a baby.
 
Dogger, who was Father’s general roustabout and jack- of- all- trades, simply hadn’t the resources of mind, body, or finances to lug round lavish gifts secretly by night in a drafty and decaying country house. Dogger had been a prisoner of war in the Far East, where he had suffered so awfully that his brain had remained connected to those horrors by an invisible elastic cord— a cord that was sometimes still given a jerk by cruel Fate, usually at the most inopportune moments.
 
“ ’E ’ad to eat rats!” Mrs. Mullet had told me, wide- eyed in the kitchen. “Rats, fancy! They ’ad to fry ’em!”
 
With everyone in the household disqualified for one reason or another as the Bringer of Gifts, that left only Father Christmas.
 
He would be coming again in less than a week and, in order to settle the question for once and for all, I had long ago laid plans to trap him.
 
Scientifically.

Customer Reviews

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I Am Half-Sick of Shadows 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Denise_P More than 1 year ago
It's Christmastime at Buckshaw and Flavia devises a plan to check Father Christmas in the act. But as the house fills up with a movie crew she has other things on her mind as well. The movie crew arrives at Buckshaw after Colonel de Luce lets them tape there in exchange for money (their money situation is still dire). Flavia becomes fast friends with the star of the movie, Phyllis Wyvern. When someone from the movie crew is suddenly murdered Flavia investigates the murder. During her investigation of the murder and her plot to catch Father Christmas Flavia finds herself in danger, will this Christmas be her last? This is by far my favorite book of the Flavia de Luce series. Just when I thought I couldn't like Flavia any more than I do, she turns up even more precocious and loveable as ever. I loved her devised plan to catch Father Christmas, and all through the book it felt like it was Flavia and me plotting together. Flavia is like the little sister I never had but always wanted. I would recommend this book to people who have read and enjoyed the other Flavia de Luce books and enjoyed them. This is even a good read for those who haven't read the other books.
RheaT More than 1 year ago
My only regret, in having read this book, is that I have to wait another year for the fifth book in the series to be published. Flavia is the hero of my inner child, and her story is told so well by the author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Incredibly creative writing. Great storyline. I love Flavia De Luce.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Throughout reading this amazing book, I was always captured by the unexpected twists and turns of the novel, the beautiful figurative language used, and, of course, the clever mind of Flavia de Luce. I read this book in merely a few days, because I always dreaded the moment when I would have to put it down. I was eager to turn each page, and immersed in Flavia's life of murder, poisons, and the occasional wise words of her friend Dogger. You don't even have to read the other books before it, it will still come off as spectacular. If you are looking for an amazing, captivating mystery, look no further. This novel, by the incredibly talented author Alan Bradley, has it all. Enjoy!
ethel55 More than 1 year ago
A Christmas return to Buckshaw and the life of Flavia de Luce is welcome indeed! A film crew has descended on Buckshaw to make a movie and help defray the costs of running the estate. Over half of Bishop's Lacey makes the trek out for a holiday benefit concert (that church needs a lot of work), only to be snowed in during the subsequent blizzard. Of course, a body is discovered and with no where to run, all are suspects in this story. Her trusty bike in storage for the winter, Flavia must make do with the hidey holes at Buckshaw to ferret out information. Although it has a familiar feel, the story is fun as always. Flavia is such a great character, kicked out the Girl Guides, she's a total cross between Nancy Drew, Harriet the Spy and Miss Marple. This book would stand alone alright if you're new to the de Luce clan, but you're shorting yourself if you don't read them all.
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
Film Crew at Christmas Means Murder Had I realized that the fourth Flavia de Luce novel was set around Christmas, I would have crammed it into last year in an effort to listen to it at Christmas time. The next best thing was to listen to I Am Half-Sick of Shadows in January while Christmas was still fresh in my mind. As this book opens, it is the week before Christmas, and a film crew is arriving at Buckshaw, the de Luce family mansion. They are going to be filming a movie starring Phyllis Wyvern, a huge movie star. Flavia’s father has done this in order to bring in much needed money to pay off the taxes owed on the estate. Unfortunately, this does mean a quieter Christmas this year since any decorations would get in the way of the filming of the movie. Still, Flavia has one thing on her mind, the sticky substance she’s been brewing in her laboratory in order to catch Father Christmas on their roof and prove once and for all if he exists or not. As time marches toward Christmas, the snow begins to fall, but that doesn’t keep much of the village from coming to Buckshaw for a performance put on by Phyllis to raise money for the parish roof. Unfortunately, the storm is bad enough that it traps everyone in the mansion, and that night someone is murdered. With all the suspects in her own home, can Flavia figure out who the killer is? With this being winter, certain elements of the series like Flavia riding her trusty bike, Gladys, all over the countryside aren’t to be found. We do get to see all the regulars plus a face from the second book. Unfortunately, the mystery was very slow to get started. We’re almost half way through the book before the murder takes places, and only some of the story time before that was truly setting up suspects. Once the murder takes place, the action does pick up considerably. There are some good twists and revelations on the way to the end. In the last book, Flavia was annoying me, mainly because she was acting her age. I’m glad to say that she was much better behaved in this book. We came close to getting some much needed character development for her two older sisters, and I hope that comes in the next book. I’m ready for their relationship to evolve. The rest of the cast continued to be strong no matter how big or small their part was in the overall book. While the Christmas atmosphere isn’t on every page, I did enjoy it when it came into play in the story. There is plenty of it to make reading this book in December an added joy. I just didn’t want to wait that long since I had just missed Christmas. What I find interesting is how the author keeps working the time period into these books. Flavia may live in a small village, but the two wars that had been fought recently continue to influence her world. Being eleven, she probably doesn’t completely understand everything that had happened, but it is interesting to the adult audience of the books. Which is why I wish the plotting were stronger in the series. The characters are charming and the setting is wonderful, but the slow plot keeps me from completely recommending I Am Half-Sick of Shadows.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the Flavia de Luce series! I can't wait to read the next installment!
InTheBookcase More than 1 year ago
Another great murder mystery solved by chemical deductions in the mind of young Flavia de Luce! This series contains some of the best mysteries for modern-written books. Read this one in December if you won't mind a little murder with your Christmas.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite Flavia De Luce book. It is full of interesting characters and Flavia is at her best. Highly recommended and would make a lovely gift for a reader of any age. The hardback is adorable!
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HayRed More than 1 year ago
The entire series is excellent. It's a true who-done-it that makes British mysteries so enjoyable. A funny heroine with a good mind who untangles the craziest of murders. I love every minute!
ohio-child More than 1 year ago
This is the second book about Flavia that I have had the good fortune to find. Her character is engaging. The chemistry trivia is an added plus. If you are looking for a new series I highly recommend this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CaptureS misty
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Grabbed Misty's scruff and slapped her in a cage. "Listen up, Omega!" She snarled. "Shadowstalker will treat to your wounds after we hurt you." She took the pup to the first result. <p> Shadow gagged but followed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
With her trusty bike to guide her and her cinderellaesk sisters to spurn her on Flavia falls into a murder case during christmas and this one once again cuts close to home and loved ones. So taking to her sanctum lab and using her quick wit and keen observation Flavia rallys to save St. Nick while whipping up hilarious potions in her lab! Well done series makes you laugh and truly feel the london after world war two.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it! The whole series is great!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a fascinating story, honestly, and being around flavia's age gives me a good point of view. I could compare the story to one of Agatha Christie's novels. Flavia DeLuce is just as fascinating and clever as Monsieur Poirot.