For Fans Of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce Mysteries, A New Arrival

December 13, 2011

Fans of Alan Bradley will be very happy this holiday season as a new Flavia de Luce mystery has just been released: I Am Half-Sick Of Shadows. It should be noted that with an 11 year-old sleuth these books can be equally popular with teens as adults. If you’re looking for something new for your teen mystery fan to read, we heartily recommend this series.

“It’s Christmastime, and the precocious Flavia de Luce—an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a penchant for crime-solving—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, past midnight, 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 use every ounce of sly wit at her disposal to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.” The titles in the series are all wonderful curiosities and the book covers alone make readers dive in to see what’s what. This time around the title comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott. 

“I am half-sick of shadows,’ said The Lady of Shalott.”

The first book in the series, The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie, won The Macavity Award for Best First Mystery Novel, the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, the CWA Debut Dagger Award, among others.  Our mystery readers found much to enjoy with Flavia de Luce, the 11-year-old sleuth.  From the publisher: “It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.””  The title  comes from William King’s The Art of Cookery, published in 1708.

Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie,
Who cares for all the crinkling of the pie?

The second book in the series is The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag. From the publisher: “Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head?”  This title comes from Sir Walter Raleigh in a poem to his son:

THREE things there be that prosper all apace,
And flourish while they are asunder far;
But on a day, they meet all in a place,
And when they meet, they one another mar.

And they be these; the Wood, the Weed, the Wag:
The Wood is that that makes the gallows tree;
The Weed is that that strings the hangman’s bag;
The Wag, my pretty knave, betokens thee.

Now mark, dear boy—while these assemble not,
Green springs the tree, hemp grows, the wag is wild;
But when they meet, it makes the timber rot,
It frets the halter, and it chokes the child.

 A Red Herring Without Mustard is the third book in the series and continues with Flavia’s sleuthing successes. “Flavia had asked the old Gypsy woman to tell her fortune, but never expected to stumble across the poor soul, bludgeoned in the wee hours in her own caravan. Was this an act of retribution by those convinced that the soothsayer had abducted a local child years ago? Certainly Flavia understands the bliss of settling scores; revenge is a delightful pastime when one has two odious older sisters. But how could this crime be connected to the missing baby? Had it something to do with the weird sect who met at the river to practice their secret rites? While still pondering the possibilities, Flavia stumbles upon another corpse—that of a notorious layabout who had been caught prowling about the de Luce’s drawing room. Pedaling Gladys, her faithful bicycle, across the countryside in search of clues to both crimes, Flavia uncovers some odd new twists. Most intriguing is her introduction to an elegant artist with a very special object in her possession—a portrait that sheds light on the biggest mystery of all: Who is Flavia?” This time the title comes from Thomas Lodge and Robert Greene in A Looking Glasse for London and Englande (1592):

….a cup of ale without a wench, why alas,
’tis like an egg without salt or a red herring
without mustard.