I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley
Meet Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old chemist and amateur sleuth. She lives at Buckshaw, a stately old house in England with her father, a stamp collector, spiteful older sisters Daphne and Ophelia, and Dogger, Buckshaw’s butler/handyman/gardener. Motherly Mrs. Mullet comes in daily to cook and clean. The year is 1950, and Colonel de Luce, struggling to make ends meet, rents out Buckshaw to a film company over the Christmas holidays. The famous Phyllis Wyvern and crew move in. Lead actors Phyllis and Desmond agree to put on a show for charity, and act out the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet for the residents of nearby Bishop’s Lacey. A blizzard strands the villagers, who camp out in Buckshaw’s vast foyer.
In the meantime, Flavia is busy concocting a sticky trap for Father Christmas, whose existence is denied by her sisters. When she finds a strangled body, Dogger and Flavia assist Inspector Hewitt in solving the murder. Sometimes Flavia seems too smart for her age, although emotionally she is just right, but she is always good company. This is the fourth book in an award-winning mystery series beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, but is my favorite to date. Happily, the author is contracted for five more titles. I have listened to the whole series on compact disc, and really enjoy Jayne Entistle’s narration. For more about Flavia, visit the author’s website, or view the book trailer.