Top critical review
Film Crew at Christmas Means Murder
on 10 February 2016
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.