What better Christmas surprise for detective-in-training Flavia de Luce than a dreadful murder under Buckshaw's roof - and a snowbound house full of suspects!
It's Christmas time, and our beloved Flavia is tucked away in her laboratory whipping up a sticky concoction to trap that infamous sneak, Saint Nick, and thereby prove once and for all - despite the claims of her evil sisters - that he does exist. But she is soon distracted from her task: Colonel de Luce, in desperate need of funds, has rented the family's crumbling manor house to a film company for the holidays. When its crew arrives from London to shoot a movie starring the reclusive and renowned actress, Phyllis Wyvern, there's no end to the disruptions - and dramas - demanding Flavia's attention.
When Wyvern is convinced to perform a famous scene to help raise funds for the local church, it is decided that Buckshaw Manor is the only suitable location. Its foyer alone is bigger than the parish hall, and could fit every man, woman, and child in Bishop's Lacey, to a soul. It's almost Christmas Eve, but - to no one's surprise - all of the village inhabitants fight their way through a raging snowstorm to be in the audience that magical night.
As the actors take to the stage, however, the blizzard sets in, and it becomes clear that the villagers will have to hunker down at Buckshaw for the night. Sleeping head to toe in the de Luces' foyer seems amenable to most, until word spreads of the evening's shocking conclusion - Phyllis Wyvern is found strangled to death in the Blue Bedroom, with a length of film from one of her movies tied in an elaborate bow around her neck.
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 her chemical cleverness and crime-solving prowess to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight. But when she does piece the puzzle together and deduce who has committed this twisted crime, will Flavia be able to escape in one piece?
Alan Bradley was born in Toronto and grew up in Cobourg, Ontario. With an education in electronic engineering, Alan worked at numerous radio and television stations in Ontario, and at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University) in Toronto before becoming Director of Television Engineering in the media centre at the University of Saskatchewan, where he worked for twenty-five years before taking early retirement in 1994.
Bradley was the first President of the Saskatoon Writers, and a founding member of the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild. His children's stories were published in The Canadian Children's Annual and his short story "Meet Miss Mullen" was the first recipient of the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild Award for Children's Literature.
For a number of years, he regularly taught scriptwriting and television production courses at the University of Saskatchewan. His fiction has been published in literary journals, and he has given many public readings in schools and galleries. His short stories have been broadcast by CBC Radio, and his lifestyle and humour pieces have appeared in The Globe and Mail and The National Post.
Alan Bradley was also a founding member of The Casebook of Saskatoon, a society devoted to the study of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockian writings. There, he met the late Dr. William A.S. Sarjeant, with whom he collaborated on the classic book Ms. Holmes of Baker Street (1989). This work put forth the startling theory that the Great Detective was a woman, and was greeted upon publication with what has been described as "a firestorm of controversy." As he's explained in interviews, Bradley was always an avid reader of mysteries, even as a child, "My grandmother used to press them upon us when we were very young. One of the first books she gave me was Dorothy L. Sayers' Busman's Holiday. I was profoundly influenced by it."
Upon retirement, Bradley began writing full time. His next book, The Shoebox Bible (2006), has been compared with Tuesdays with Morrie and Mr. God, This is Anna. In this beautiful memoir, Bradley tells the story of his early life in southern Ontario and paints a vivid portrait of his mother, a strong and inspirational woman who struggled to raise three children on her own during tough times.
In July of 2007, Bradley won the Debut Dagger Award from the British Crime Writers' Association for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (2009), based on just a few pages that would become the first novel in a series featuring eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce. As Bradley has explained, it was the character of Flavia that inspired him to embark upon the project, "I started to write The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie in the spring of 2006. Flavia had walked into another novel I was writing as an incidental character, and she hijacked the book. Although I didn't finish that book, Flavia stuck with me." The Dagger Award brought international attention to Bradley's fiction debut, and since then he has won numerous awards, including the Agatha, the Macavity, the Dilys, the Barry, and the Arthur Ellis. The second and third books in the Flavia de Luce series - The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag and A Red Herring Without Mustard - were also met with great success, and the release of I Am Half-Sick of Shadows is much anticipated. So far, all of the novels in the series have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. They have been translated into more than thirty languages and have sold more than half a million copies worldwide.
Alan Bradley lives in Malta with his wife Shirley and two calculating cats. He is currently working on the fifth novel starring Flavia de Luce.
“With its sharply drawn characters, including the hiss-worthy older de Luce sisters, and an agreeable puzzle playing out against the cozy backdrop of a British village at Christmas, this is a most welcome holiday gift for Flavia fans.”
“That serial charmer Flavia, wreathed in Tennyson and Shakespeare.”
“We find in Flavia an incorrigible and wholly lovable detective; from her chemical experiments in her sanctum sanctorum to her outrage at the idiocy of the adult world, she is unequaled.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
Selected praise for Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books:
“Think of Flavia as a new Sherlock in the making.”
—Booklist, on A Red Herring Without Mustard
“Bradley is a writer of great charm and insight, and he infuses even minor characters with incredible personality . . . Flavia de Luce, both eleven and ageless, is a marvel and a delight.”
—Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, on The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
”A wickedly clever story, a dead-true and original voice, and an English country house in the summer: Alexander McCall Smith meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Please, please, Mr. Bradley, tell me we’ll be seeing Flavia again soon?”
—Laurie R. King, bestselling author of Pirate King, on The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie