This is the first work by Sarah Pinborough I've read and while I can't say I hated the book, when I finished it I was left feeling as though2.5 stars
This is the first work by Sarah Pinborough I've read and while I can't say I hated the book, when I finished it I was left feeling as though something was missing from the story. It felt, I don't know, lightweight, and I'm not sure why. After all, it was well-researched (from what I could tell) and atmospheric, with a compelling story. Also a unique one. After all, how many out there, aside from hardcore Ripperologists, have heard of the Torso Killer who went on his murderous spree at the same time as Jack? Not me. Granted, I'm not unfamiliar with Jack the Ripper and have spent my fair share of time researching the case and formulating my own theories, but I'd still consider myself far from being a true Ripperologist, so hearing about a second, equally depraved serial killer terrorizing London alongside Jack piqued my curiosity to no end.
I think part, or actually most of the problem, was that the book felt as though it didn't really know what it was trying to be or how it wanted to tell the story. Divided into three parts, part one started out as a pretty straightforward historical thriller/mystery, detailing the initial search for this Torso Killer. Though the multiple P.O.V.s were distracting, the overall tone was one I liked, sort of a Victorian England CSI. The only issue I had with this section is that the story seemed a bit too reminiscent of the movie From Hell, as Pinborough wrote her main character as also being an opium addict. Then part two begins and suddenly a supernatural element, which had been introduced earlier in the form of a refugee from Eastern Europe who has visions of evil things to come, takes over and alters the tone of the story. Not only that, but that supernatural thread never feels quite right, like a skin of oil resting on top of a glass of water: it's there, but it doesn't mix in. In part three, the author is trying to tie everything together and wind the story up, and as a result things seems to drag on just a bit too long until all of a sudden, we're at the finale of the book and... it's just over with. It came off as being anticlimactic: there was a fight with the villain that was over and done with quite quickly, and the whole situation just tied itself up all neat and pretty. I didn't feel satisfied with how things worked out, like the payoff just wasn't great enough for all the trauma the characters went through up to that point. There was also supposed to be a twist, but once you put the pieces together, you could see that "twist" coming from a mile away. It didn't help that the story's multiple P.O.V.s, which can sometimes be a tricky proposition, made it quite difficult to settle into the story: as soon as I was drawn into following the story from one character's perspective, the chapter ended and another voice took over.
Which is a real shame because, at its heart, Mayhem is a well-written book. Let down by the occasional spelling mistake, some odd grammar choices, and other style quirks, sadly, leading me to feel not entirely pleased with the novel. And while the subject matter itself was compelling enough to keep me reading, I wish Pinborough had stuck to using a strictly psychological thriller angle to explore the mystery of the Torso Killer....more
Ah, Flavia, how I do love thee! I still say I'd love to have her as my child, if it weren't for my fear that she would continually get the best of me.Ah, Flavia, how I do love thee! I still say I'd love to have her as my child, if it weren't for my fear that she would continually get the best of me. Her intelligence and perspicacity are terrifying.
Once again, death has come to the village of Bishop's Lacey. However, Flavia's already involved with a dead body, that of St. Tancred, whose tomb underneath the village church (which also bears the saint's name) has become the subject of an archaeological dig. Flavia has managed to insert herself into the proceedings, to no-one's surprise, so her eyes are the first to light upon the contents of St. Tancred's tomb. However, what she finds is not the moldering body of a saint, but the very recently deceased corpse of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist. As always, Flavia, with the help of her trusty 2-wheeled steed Gladys, takes it upon herself to solve the murder, though she's kind enough to leave a few clues for her frequent sparring partner, Inspector Hewitt, to solve. As Flavia unravels the convoluted web of deceit, family secrets, and greed at the heart of Mr. Collicutt's murder, an even more shocking secret is revealed, culminating in a doozy of a cliffhanger ending.
This novel, though it was still filled with Bradley's trademark wit, not to mention an engaging mystery, felt more intimate than previous entries in the series. The connections between Flavia and her family are explored in greater detail, allowing us to see the affection, hidden though it may be most of the time, which exists within the de Luce family. Don't worry, there's still plenty of hissing and sniping between Flavia and her sisters Ophelia (“Feely”) and Daphne (“Daffy”), but there are also some genuine moments of emotional bonding. And this is due to the overarching family drama running through the background of all these mysteries finally coming to a head. As we learned in the previous novels, Buckshaw, the de Luce's family home, actually belonged to Flavia's mother, Harriet. When she disappeared while mountaineering in the Himalayas, Flavia's father has struggled to maintain the large house in the years since. Now, though, those struggles have come to an end: The money's run out and all that's left is to sell Buckshaw and move the family to a smaller place. Naturally, this comes as quite a blow to everyone, none more so than Flavia, who struggles to deal with the loss of the old pile and especially her laboratory, a magnificent space kitted out with all the very best chemistry equipment by her uncle, Tarquin de Luce. Not only is it a place where Flavia carries out her chemical sleuthing, it is her sanctuary, her place of escape when she's suffered at the hands of her tormenting sisters and dreams up gruesome deaths by obscure poisons in revenge. But now, with the big reveal at the end of the novel, what will this all mean for the de Luce's and for Flavia? I can't wait to find out! Bradley has been signed by Delacorte to write five more Flavia novels, which is just fabulous news, as that means they'll be plenty more Flavia adventures to come!
On a side note, I have mixed emotions concerning the news that Sam Mendes has bought the rights to produce five two-hour television movies based on the series. Or, at least that's the plan. On the one hand, Mendes is good at what he does and the fact that he'll be working with a television/mini-series format as opposed to a big screen/movie series one is reassuring. It means more quality control and less chance of things falling apart. On the other hand, I cannot think of any young actress today who could embody the precociousness, the intelligence, the bull-headed, impish, shrewd nature of Flavia and actually pull it off. Not to mention the potential changes a scriptwriter or even Mendes himself might or will make to the story terrifies me. What if they think that the 1950's setting isn't exciting enough? What if they decide to update it, set it in London, or, god forbid, set it in America? Oh, man, I'm going to have nightmares!...more
This is one of those charming cozy mysteries, in the vein of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, portraying a quaint, quirky English village, of the type wThis is one of those charming cozy mysteries, in the vein of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, portraying a quaint, quirky English village, of the type which probably only exists in fiction as it's so quaint and so quirky as to be unreal, and its quaint, quirky inhabitants. (And, yes, I'm going to use those two 'q' words throughout this review because I like them and they work so well.) It's the kind of book you read not so much for the mystery, which can be quite satisfying in its own way, as for the spectacle of watching the slightly less quaint and quirky sleuth or sleuths bumble, stumble, and fumble their way to a solution.
Carole Seddon has just moved to the seaside town of Fethering, a village which prides itself on its smug respectability and its residents ability to know exactly where they belong and how to behave properly within the confines of this “retirement” village. Riff-raff is confined to the undesirable council estates and even then, only within limits. Staid, reserved, uptight Carole fits in perfectly. She even has the requisite dog, a Labrador named Gulliver, whom she takes on regularly scheduled walks along the beach. Its on one of these walks that she discovers a body. Rather than becoming hysterical about the situation, she returns home and gives Gulliver a bath (as he's managed to roll in something rather nasty and pungent in a pile of seaweed, after having thoroughly soaked himself while trying to command the waves). After mopping up his dog prints from the kitchen floor, it seems only sensible to Carole that she clean the rest of the room, resulting in nearly two hours passing between her discovering the body and placing a phone call to the police notifying them of said body. Which explains why, when a Detective Inspector and WPC (Woman police constable) show up at her cottage, she's treated with condescension and pity. Because there's no body to be found.
Despite her better instincts, Carole involves her new neighbor, Jude, in the mystery. Jude, who's free-spirited ways stand in stark contrast to Carole's rigidity (and who constantly frustrates Carole with her aversion to giving out personal information, even down to her surname; seriously, Carole spends the entire book trying to find a way to get Jude to say her last name, but it never happens), seems an odd choice for a partner, but soon the two find themselves friends and, more importantly, equally determined to solve the mystery of the disappearing body. As neither of them have even been detectives, it takes them a while to figure out how to begin, but eventually the two find themselves sifting through the dark recesses of Fethering life and finding out that even nice, quite retirement villages hide dangerous secrets.
It takes a while to warm up to the book. Carole is so tightly wound, to put it vulgarly, if you shoved a piece of coal up her bum, she'd pass a diamond. However, once Jude is introduced, Carole finds that not only is loosening up not a crime, it can be actually quite pleasurable, and as the story progresses, Carole becomes more human thanks to Jude's influence. The character I feel the most for, though, is Gulliver; since Carole got him as a sort of check-list purchase (Cottage? Check. Raincoat and gumboots? Check. Dog to complete one's retired life? Check.) she doesn't particularly interact with him. In fact, the way Brett describes the absolute joy in Gulliver as Jude splashes around in the waves with him is almost heart breaking. The remaining characters are quaint and quirky enough to add color without becoming caricatures; it's easy to picture the proud yet obviously sad Vice-Commodore, the snobbish to the point of fascism mother-daughter duo of Winnie Norton and Barbara Turnbull, or hear the tired, retreaded jokes from the washed-up comic-turned-barkeep Ted.
As I mentioned above, the mystery is almost incidental. It's entertaining in and of itself, even if I did manage to figure out the set-up a third of the way in and saw what was coming from a mile away. (The only shock came when the identity of the culprit's partner was revealed—now that I was not expecting!) But what really makes the mystery intriguing and brings it life is watching how the characters deal with events and go about solving the crime, especially in this story/series. With two sleuths on the case, invariably they each discover important pieces of the puzzle along the way, but can't discuss their findings with one another properly until it's too late. Or nearly too late—after all, we want Jude and Carole to live another day, so they may solve yet another mystery in a way which will disrupt the rigid sensibilities of the residents of Fethering. Not to mention allow Carole to perchance discover what the hell Jude's last name is!...more
I have found a new favorite author. It's obvious Simon Brett has a deep and abiding love for P.G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie and their ilk, but thaI have found a new favorite author. It's obvious Simon Brett has a deep and abiding love for P.G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie and their ilk, but that hasn't stopped him from taking the staples of the English-country-set cozy mystery and skewered them one by one with a red-hot cricket bat. From the amateur sleuth who's always on-scene and can find the answer to any conundrum just by licking the backside of a dust bunny, in this case Twinks, aka Lady Honoria Lyminster: [regarding two pieces of carpet fibre, one plucked from the victim's shoe, the other a sample from the victim's room] "Both pieces, as you can see, are from the same carpet. It's a Turkish fine-weave, probably manufactured in the workshop of the Hassan brothers in the village of Akgurglu just to the north of Izmir, and almost definitely originally bought from the emporium of their cousin Mustapha Khalid on the Golden Alley of the main Istanbul souk. Not that any of that's important. The important thing is that both samples came from the same carpet." to the bumbling, stumbling, plodding, thick-headed police force that's always being shown up by said amateur sleuth, in this case taking the form of Chief Inspector Trumbull and Sergeant Knatchbull: "Chief Inspector Trumbull had not been at the front of the queue when the intellect was handed out. Indeed, he appeared not to have been in the same county. But that did not prevent him from rising through the ranks of his chosen profession. Indeed, in those days for anyone in that profession to have shown intelligence or originality would have been a positive disqualification. The role of the police was to do a lot of boring legwork and paperwork, to trail up investigatory cul-de-sacs, to be constantly baffled, and dutifully amazed when an amateur sleuth revealed the solution to a murder mystery." In between are the battle-axe of a mother, the Dowager Duchess of Tawcester (pronounced "Taster," everyone knows that): "She was constructed on the lines of a transatlantic steamer and it was comparably difficult to make her change her course once she was under way." as well as various scions and breeders of the ruling class, ridiculous nicknames included, as with Twinks's brother, the Right Honourable Devereux Lyminster, who was known by one and all as Blotto: "His nickname certainly did not derive from his drinking habits. Amongst people of his class it was thought bad form for nicknames to have logical explanations; they were items to be scattered about with random largesse, like small donations to a charity."
The story here is pretty much incidental. The entertainment comes from the characters and Brett's assassination of the genre in which he's writing. By parodying the situations, the characters, the language and lingo, he's creating a pitch-perfect yet exaggerated English-country-set story along the lines of P.G. Wodehouse (most especially Wodehouse's classic Jeeves & Wooster tales), with a pinch of cozy mystery thrown in a la Agatha Christie (reminiscent of the interfering and prescient Miss Marple) though the mystery isn't nearly as mysterious as Christie's. But, again, that doesn't matter. What matters is the experiences you encounter as the story sweeps you up and gallops away, with you hanging on to the tail for dear life. Every time Blotto grows confused about a situation (which is nearly always as "Blotto's thoughts rarely ran deep enough to dampen the soles of his handmade brogues."); every time Twinks comes to his rescue (which is nearly always, with Blotto responding to her brilliance with a "Toad-in-the-hole, Twinks, you are absolutely the lark's larynx."); basically at every harebrained scheme come up by Twinks and gamely put into place by Blotto, you know Brett is skewering the genre and poking fun at the stereotypes, yet he does it so well, with such marvelous turns of phrases and side-splitting, original descriptions, that you don't care--you just keep reading... and laughing your ass off.
This is a book which doesn't require much brain power to enjoy and can be gotten through quickly. (I breezed through it in two days.) The only thing is does require is your willingness to suspend higher thinking for a while and enjoy the ride.
I adore Flavia! Granted, if she were my child, I believe I would've probably had a nervous breakdown by now, what with all of her and her sisters' antI adore Flavia! Granted, if she were my child, I believe I would've probably had a nervous breakdown by now, what with all of her and her sisters' antics. However, as a fictional character, Flavia is not only the most original and compelling I've seen, she's also the most three-dimensional and undeniably real child character I've met. Usually, in fiction, even that directed towards children, child characters lack a sense of reality; they're either too precious or too nasty or just too underdeveloped. Flavia has courage, curiosity, neuroses, fears, dreams, imagination, bold ideas, harebrained schemes, and often does things at a moment's notice without truly thinking about the consequences--spot on behaviors for an 11-year-old. She tries to show her bravery in the face of her sisters' casual cruelty, yet crumbles at the last minute, succumbing to her fright or anguish. Yet, as with every book, she has her love of chemistry and all its potential uses for revenge to buoy her and propel her into the next set of adventures and dangers.
In this particular novel, it's winter, near Christmas time, and due to financial difficulties, Flavia's father, Colonel Haviland de Luce, has leased out the family manor, Buckshaw, to a film company (or a 'fillum' company, as the family cook/housekeeper/mother hen Mrs. Mullet puts it). The crumbling pile of stone that is Buckshaw soon finds itself swarming with all manner of actors, film crew and other assorted creatures and Flavia's elder sister, Ophelia (or 'Feely'), is in seventh heaven as she finds herself conscripted into the cast as an extra. Naturally, there is a great deal of off-stage drama, particularly involving the star of the movie, Phyllis Wyvern, and, also quite naturally, Flavia eventually stumbles upon a gruesome murder. With all the occupants trapped inside the house due to a ferocious winter storm (as well as orders from Flavia's nemesis/mentor, Inspector Hewitt), chaos is bound to ensue. In the midst of that, Flavia puts her chemical knowledge to good use by setting out traps to capture Father Christmas and finds herself catching the murderer instead (while also setting off the fireworks she created in her lab, thereby startling the entire countryside with their sonic booms).
As with all the Flavia books, the mystery isn't that involved or hard to figure out. Don't get me wrong, it's not done poorly; there's still plenty of 'whodunit' in the novel as various suspects and clues are found and discarded. However, the mystery is always secondary to the reactions and interactions of the characters involved, specifically Flavia. Watching her concoct everything from poisons to explosives in her chemistry lab, usually as a result of a confrontation with her sisters, with revenge being the driving force; watching her feverish brain deduct clues and scramble to solve the mystery and prove herself to Inspector Hewitt; watching her be the bright, precocious, fiendishly intelligent eleven-year-old she is is what truly drives each novel, in my opinion. What makes I Am Half-Sick of Shadows stand out is that Flavia finally confronts her sisters, something I've been eagerly urging her to do (yes, I know I'm urging a fictional character--get over it) since the very first Flavia novel. Nothing is particularly settled between the three sisters, except perhaps for a lovely Christmas truce; however, the question of 'Why do you hate me?' has been put out there by Flavia, perhaps to be answered in the next novel. And believe me, I'm most eagerly looking forward to it....more
The basis of the novel is rather interesting, but the writing is a bit awkward and stilted; there seemed to be a lot of "He did this. Then he2.5 stars
The basis of the novel is rather interesting, but the writing is a bit awkward and stilted; there seemed to be a lot of "He did this. Then he did this. He went here. They went there." Rather reminiscent of a Dick and Jane book, only with more grown up words. However, it doesn't surprise me that the book's been optioned for a television series; Hollywood seems to have a nose for mediocre works. I just hope it gets tweaked a bit more before it goes into production; the mystery was fairly well done, but the characters were blah and the story, beyond the initial Sherlock Holmes premise, wasn't that exciting. Speaking of a Sherlock Holmes premise, in that the story revolved around a letter sent to that famous detective which kicks off the action in the story, I was rather expecting the tale to take place somewhere in the UK, not in L.A. I guess having a stateside setting allowed Robertson to more easily take advantage of his lazy generalizations concerning the American characters in his book. Now, I'm not a flaming patriot; I get upset quite frequently with America's blunders and often wish our social and governmental systems were run more effectively and efficiently. However, Robertson paints all his American characters as selfish, suspicious, greedy and generally ignorant of anything outside their small sphere of influence. I might agree with that last generalization, which could apply to almost any human being regardless of country of origin; however, while we all suffer to some degree from one or all of the other traits, I find it hard to believe that Robertson's main character didn't run into at least one nice, helpful and generous individual, even in L.A. It seemed rather an amateurish writing error; if I wrote a novel set in England and portrayed all the characters within as upper-crust, white, tea-drinking, public school educated, Margaret Thatcher wannabes, there would certainly be some backlash over such stereotyping.
It's possible his second book is a vast improvement over his first; however, as of this moment, I really have very little interest in finding out if that's so....more
I'm still trying to decide if I like this more than what I think. While it's a well-written book, with a good mystery and a twist ending which is rathI'm still trying to decide if I like this more than what I think. While it's a well-written book, with a good mystery and a twist ending which is rather surprising, I don't seem to feel as connected to the story or the lead character, Mary Quinn, as I should. There's a distance, so that while I can fume in anger when Mary's treated badly by another character, I don't feel Mary's pain or hurt as much as I would were I more invested in her as a character. She's well-drawn, with an appropriately mysterious and traumatic background; she's got a lively personality and a feistiness I can appreciate, considering the mid-nineteenth century time period in which the story's set. There are no obvious missteps (except for the fact that Lee uses the American numbering of house levels--first floor, second floor, etc.--when it should've been done in the British manner--ground floor, first floor, second floor, etc.). There are no glaring historical inaccuracies. It's a good book, with an interesting and unique set-up, and definitely worth a read. I just can't work up any great enthusiasm for it....more
2.5 stars This was a fairly entertaining, if mediocre, novel, introducing the world to amateur sleuth/bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. While the "voice" o2.5 stars This was a fairly entertaining, if mediocre, novel, introducing the world to amateur sleuth/bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. While the "voice" of Stephanie is refreshingly earthy, sadly, taken as a whole, she's far less entertaining than I thought and certainly much more annoying than I could've guessed. Most of the good bits come from the actions of secondary characters, especially Grandma Mazur (although the "wacky old lady" schtick gets tiresome after awhile). For every minor chuckle-worthy moment with Stephanie, I had to slog through several other whiny, incompetent, frustrating, and just plain idiotic moments.
And that's why I'm not such a fan of this book: It's so unrealistic. Yes, I know, it's a fiction novel about a fictional character. Thank you, I got that. But every story, no matter how how fantastical the storyline, has to have some ground rules. I have the ability to suspend my disbelief; believe me, I'm more gullible than most when it comes to books and movies I think. I want to believe the actions of the characters, I want to be surprised when the denouement comes at the climax, and I work hard to miss all the clues that might pop up along the way, bits of info that others seem to pick up on which shatter the illusion and spoil the surprise. However, Evanovich has pushed the boundaries of reality to their breaking point. If the events in this book occurred in the real world, Stephanie would've been beaten up, raped, and killed before a third of the story had passed by. Even allowing for the good luck (or the occasional deus ex machina) allotted to fictional characters in order to move the story along, Stephanie's fantastic luck in escaping from her hair-brained schemes would require the constant supervision provided by at least a dozen fairy godmothers.
Which brings me to the heart of the matter. While I can admire anyone who leaps bravely into a new job without any training or experience, with only the confidence of "I'll learn as I go" to buoy them, I'm sorry, that kind of gung-ho behavior doesn't work in a job where a basic knowledge of how handcuffs work and a smidgen of self-defense skills is required, not to mention where a fear of handguns is a severe liability. Especially when that ignorance is brushed off with a blithe, "What could possibly go wrong?" kind of attitude. After all, Stephanie will be dealing with people, criminals, who have skipped out on bail for the simple purpose of not going to jail and who therefore won't be at all eager to simply come along when she bids them and docilely trot to the nearest police station to remedy their error. Instead, they will use whatever means necessary, and whatever weapon they can get their hands on, to avoid going to jail. So when Stephanie goes after one such person and stupidly stands there, on the front stoop of his house, as he takes away her purse, which, of course, contains her gun and spare ammo, thereby arming the man, and lets him shove her to the ground as he barricades himself into his house, it makes me want to gnash my teeth and pull out my hair in frustration. To top things off, because of her inability to defend herself, she's constantly crying to a fellow bounty hunter, a big, strong, manly-man, or to the man she's ostensibly trying to capture for aid and assistance. "Oh, please rescue me! I've gotten into this job to prove I can do it, but I have no skills and I know I should learn how to shoot a gun and defend myself, but it's so much easier leaning on your muscled chest while I let you clean up my mess." Gag me with a spoon.
The other problem I had with this book is the rather wordy narrative. I like reading about a character's habits and lifestyle, but up to a point. Wherever I went, I encountered lengthy descriptions of Stephanie's actions: "I took a shower, I got dressed, I put on my shoes, I put on some eyeliner, mascara and lipstick, I ate a bowl of cereal, I brushed my teeth, I checked my hair,..." I may have boiled down several actions into one sentence, but it's not too far off from the truth. I fully expected to see a sentence like, "I went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. When I was done, I wiped my ass and pulled up my pants." I've encountered authors who have managed to describe their character's everyday actions in much less pedantic ways.
Despite all this, I will read the second book...eventually, just to see if Evanovich's writing improves. However, even if it does, I highly doubt this series will become a 'must read'.
Edit: I wrote this review back in December of 2010. I still haven't read the second book. I think it's safe to say I never will....more
2.5 stars The first two-thirds of this book started out in a rip-roaring manner, easily earning it a four-, even five-star rating for its originality a2.5 stars The first two-thirds of this book started out in a rip-roaring manner, easily earning it a four-, even five-star rating for its originality and storytelling. The back third, however, fell off steeply into one- and two-star territory as the story descended into schmaltz and religious proselytizing. I realize there will be some well-trodden referrals to Christianity in association with Christmas (and as much as that bugs me, have no fear, I'm not going to give a dissertation on the fact that Christmas is a usurpation and amalgamation of various pagan midwinter celebrations and festivals, done so in an attempt to bring those pagans in line with the new dominant religion of Christianity), but the heavy-handed way in which they ruled the last third of the book, thereby giving the story a rather weak ending, felt too out-of-character for the genre. The reader is moved out of a Raymond Chandler-esque North Pole and into a suffocatingly preachy Thomas Kincade winter wonderland. What could've been an original take on noir, reminiscent of Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime series, ended up a thinly-veiled reference to the joys of having faith in God. That's not what I had been anticipating at the start of the story. However, if that sounds like something right up your Christmas tree (which is actually based on the ancient Egyptian ritual of bringing palm fronds into the house at midwinter to symbolize renewal, but that kind of info really belongs in my aforementioned dissertation, which I'm not writing...really I'm not), give this peppermint twist of a tale a try....more
Flavia de Luce is one of the most endearing characters to enter my life in many years. Clever, independent, and (in every sense of the word) plucky, tFlavia de Luce is one of the most endearing characters to enter my life in many years. Clever, independent, and (in every sense of the word) plucky, this eleven-year-old girl is so personable, it's difficult to remember she's only a fictional character.
It's England, 1950, and the young Flavia is a chemistry whiz-kid; her heroes include Marie Curie, Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier, and her uncle, Tarquin de Luce, in whose lab she's set up shop, spending her days concocting compounds, usually of the poisonous kind. Into her life of poisonous philters and sibling rivalry (and the two often meet in this story, with only minor, yet rather funny, consequences) comes a dead bird on the doorstep of the family manse, a dead body in the cucumber patch, and a confession from her philatelist father which could ruin the family. In her indomitable way, Flavia determines the only way she can find the truth and save her father is to connect the dots to these mysterious events and solve the case herself. She does so in such a bold manner, it makes one occasionally forget the sleuth is but a little girl...until childish pranks and tempers break the mood and lighten the story. The drama and situations Flavia gets herself into are so believable that when the climax of the story came, I found myself wincing and holding my breath, aching at the terror Flavia was experiencing and crying with relief at the satisfactorily happy (but not cloying) ending.
The writing is so pitch-perfect it's hard to believe that this is Bradley's first novel; it makes me green with envy (so green, in fact, I'm positively growing leaves), but I digress. The second book is already out and you can believe I will happily join Flavia on another of her chemically-enhanced escapades. I'm also ecstatic to discover that Alan Bradley will continue to entertain us with more tales of Flavia de Luce in the years to come....more
I like Lucy Valentine, I actually like her. Sure, she's harebrained, but if she weren't, there wouldn't be a story. However, she's also more down-to-eI like Lucy Valentine, I actually like her. Sure, she's harebrained, but if she weren't, there wouldn't be a story. However, she's also more down-to-earth, more fully developed, more real than most female protagonists in the paranormal romance/cozy mystery genre.
The book had a bit of a rocky start; I think a more judicious hand in the editing department would have benefitted the book greatly as Webber has a tendency to repeat names or information unnecessarily, which created a somewhat distracting reading environment. However, the actual writing was well done, and the action and pacing kept me involved with the story and made me care about the characters. Speaking of which, they, like Lucy, were well-rounded and real; it wasn't a case of having cookie-cutter supporting roles sprinkled around the place, only there to make the main characters look good. Instead, they each had their own personality and drive, and the requisite "quirky" character, Lucy's grandmother, Dovie, was unique enough to make you laugh yet not so much that she became a caricature. I think the thing I liked most about the book was that it was an actual romance. Not "romance," as the word is used nowadays, where the woman leaps into the man's bed and half the book is devoted to bedroom gymnastics, heavy breathing and cries of passion. In Truly, Madly we get an actual romance: tentative touches, sidelong glances, exploratory kisses, desires that yearn to do more than kiss yet restrain themselves. Lucy and Sean learn about each other's character and personality through the course of the story; they feel lust and passion for each other, but manage to keep their pants zipped regardless. And even though Lucy tried to keep her feelings for Sean under control, it wasn't because she thought herself undesirable (as is the case in so many romance novels these days), but because she thought he was in a relationship and therefore unattainable. Quite refreshing.
As for the mystery at the heart of the story, while it wasn't as complex or convoluted as those in straight mystery novels, it still presented enough of a twist at the climax of the book to create an "Oh!" moment. All in all, I throughly enjoyed this book and eagerly look forward to further adventures with Lucy Valentine....more