narfna’s #CBR5 Review #75: I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

13642966Look, I appreciate the idea of having a Christmas themed mystery with dear Flavia and her community of imaginary fellow Britons, and while Bradley doesn’t disappoint with the characters, he totally drops the ball on the mystery in this one. It’s so short and thrown in there he might as well have not done it at all. His inattention to the mystery on this one made it feel more like a cash grab than a novel. When Doctor Who does a Christmas special, it’s still got a monster in it, you know? And usually a really good one.

It’s Christmas at Buckshaw, and the De Luce family is in dull spirits. They’re still having money issues, and as a result, Colonel De Luce has hired out Buckshaw for Christmas. Famous movie star Phyllis Wyvern is shooting her latest film there, and the whole village is practically twitter-pated about it (including Flavia’s sisters, Daphne and Ophelia).

So of course Flavia develops a special bond with Ms. Wyvern (who is a bit of a bitch, but who has interesting hints of depth that never get explored), and of course she turns up murdered half-way through, and of course it’s Flavia who finds her body. I want to make it clear, though, that I’m only complaining about those things being predictable because of how it turned out. You expect a certain amount of repetitive predictability in stories like these, but the mystery is solved in the blink of an eye, and most of the leg-work happens off page, so that we as readers have absolutely no chance of solving it ourselves (which annoys me in mysteries to no end). It’s just there BAM all of a sudden, and then it’s over.

Luckily, the parts with Flavia’s family were good. Flavia has a couple of revealing moments with her sisters and with her father that lead me to believe interesting things are coming in future books. Dogger also gets some nice characterization, although we still don’t know exactly why it is he knows so much about birthing babies (there can’t have been much need in the army for a gynecologist, if that’s what he is by training).

Anyway, moral of the story: if you’re going to write a mystery novel, make sure you actually care about the mystery part. Otherwise you get pissed off readers who want to punch you in the stomach.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #71: A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

red herringThis series has the best titles, and the best covers. They both convey this welcoming want for me, and I’m compelled to read them almost against my will. As of writing this, I’m actually four books in to the series, and unfortunately Bradley seems to be a bit hit or miss with his mysteries and sense of pacing (two of the four I’ve read so far have been weakest in the main-plot area), which is disappointing after the promise of that title and those covers.

Luckily, A Red Herring Without Mustard (book three) was pretty much up to snuff. Bradley leaps right into the goings-on of the central mystery plot and allows the appropriate amount of time for Flavia to investigate, without resorting to convenient coincidences to give her clues. The mystery itself was also delightfully wacky and strayed from the traditional whodunnit arc that the other three books have followed. The main mysteries that Flavia has to solve aren’t even murders, and (spoiler) the one that everyone thinks is a murder turns out not to be after all. Plus Bradley introduces this wacky religion that I loved and that lent a bit of local color to the story.

Luckily, even when Bradley’s plots are weak, he’s still got great characters to play with. And they’re even more fun to read about when surrounded by a competent mystery (actually three mysteries in one), like in this one. Flavia and her family are all very likable, and I continue to anticipate the day when Bradley finally starts answering some of the ongoing questions/mysteries from the series. What really happened to Flavia’s mother? Why do her sisters treat her like a monster? What’s up with Dogger? I’m a bit frustrated that Bradley’s publisher has expanded the series from its original intended length of six books to at least ten (possibly more) because that means I’ll just have to wait longer. I hope Bradley doesn’t try to milk this series, and that he ends it before he’s sucked it dry of what makes it fun.

Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #21: I Am Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley



The irrepressible Flavia de Luce is back for a 4th go at some amateur sleuthing. When a world famous film star is murdered while filming in the de Luce mansion, Flavia is like a dog with two tails. Is it any good though? Find out here