Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Kiss my arsenic"

Although I love reading histories, I'll be the first to admit they're not often easy or quick reads. Sometimes my brain begins to feel a little overwhelmed with all the information and detail - no matter how interesting it might be - and I need something a little lighter, something of an escape to refresh myself. In short, something that's pure pleasure to read. If you've taken my previous advice you'll know all about eleven year-old Flavia de Luce, and her passion for poison and mystery solving.

In I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, the latest in the series by Alan Bradley, Christmas is approaching and Flavia has plans to capture Father Christmas using her knowledge of chemistry to see if he's real or not. But her father, Colonel de Luce, is finally facing up to the looming family financial crisis and has arranged for Buckshaw (the aging family mansion) to be used by the renowned British director Val Lampman as the setting for a film starring the famous actress Phyllis Wyvern along with the handsome Desmond Duncan. However, such famous film stars bring a lot of baggage, and not just camera equipment and sets. Although Miss Wyvern appears friendly and personable enough, Flavia notices that not everyone is as charmed by her. And on an evening when a blizzard traps the entire village of Bishop's Lacey in Buckshaw, Phyllis and Desmond reprise their famous Romeo and Juliet scene, and Flavia uncovers a murder.

The writing is just as clever and Flavia's wit just as sharp as the previous books. The story is perhaps a bit similar to the others, but in this one we begin to see a little more of the human side of Flavia and her family. Of course, chemistry plays a prominent role again, and Flavia's plans to catch Santa are hilarious and even bizarre. And as much as I tried to read it slowly and savor each word, I found myself reading more than I had planned at each sitting and picking it up instead of the history book I'm also reading and... before I knew it, I was finished. Ah, but it was worth it!

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