Weekend Shorts: FBP and Flavia!

It’s a science round of shorts! First there’s physics, then there’s chemistry, how can anyone go wrong? Well, I mean, there’s also death and a bit of destruction, so… I guess that’s how. What are you reading this week?

FBP, Vol. 2: “Wish You Were Here”, by Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez
Wish You Were HereHey, remember how I read Hawkeye and that one issue nearly broke my brain due to strange chronology? That’s how this entire volume was for me. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when we’re talking crazy pseudo-science, but I am still very confused as to what exactly just happened.

What I can understand is that our freelance physics friends go to a remote outpost where they meet an old friend of Cicero’s who has a shiny thing she wants to show them. Hardy and Reyes go off to explore the nearby town, there’s fancy physics fighting, Hardy learns about Reyes’s crazy physics past, Hardy learns some things about his own present, and a magic physics canyon becomes a magic physics cannon (well, sort of, let me have my wordplay) and it’s amazing. The brain-breaking part is that some or all of these events are taking place in a reality created by Hardy and Reyes, or possibly by Cicero and Sen, or possibly some hyper-intelligent mice, I don’t know. I mean, I guess I’ll know in the next volume, but for now I’m going with the mice.

The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse, by Alan Bradley
The Curious Case of the Copper CorpseI’ve stated several times here that I love Flavia de Luce, but the books about her have been hit or miss with me almost solely on the basis of how much time is spent solving mysteries versus extolling the virtues of Bishop’s Lacey and environs. Mysteries, yay! Ruminating about the history and future of Buckshaw with regard to laws governing estates, yaaaawwn.

But it turns out that long-windedness is a foundational Flavia attribute that really cannot be replicated in a 27-page story. Here’s Flavia, sitting around, oh, a note!, bicycling bicycling bicycling, a jaunt up the stairs, copper-covered fellow in a bathtub, meeting the boys of Greyminster, evading capture, mystery solved! No long rants about horrible sisters or even daydreams of criminal mischief via chemistry, and I rather missed them! It’s fascinating to find out how much you don’t even know about yourself…

The mystery itself was perfectly satisfactory, and it stands completely alone from the rest of the series so if you’re not caught up you won’t feel like you’re missing anything. But it’s no substitute for full-flavor Flavia, so luckily it’s just a few weeks until the next book comes out!

Speaking from Among the Bones, by Alan Bradley

Speaking from Among the BonesIf you’ve been around here for a while, you might know of my love-exasperation relationship with these Flavia de Luce novels. On the one hand, as soon as I see a new one my brain says YOU MUST READ THAT. On the other hand, as soon as I start reading I am like, seriously, what is wrong with this town? Why do people keep dying horrible deaths here? Why is an 11-year-old solving these crimes as well as or better than the real detectives? Why has no one grounded Flavia for life for all the rules and trusts and things she breaks?

But then on my third hand, which I keep for such occasions as this, I love Flavia because once you get her out of her detective brain she is a sweet if overly precocious kid who just wants to be more or less normal. This installment of her adventures starts with an attempt by her to prove scientifically that she is actually a part of her family, since her two older sisters often “inform” her that she is a reluctantly adopted feral child raised by gorillas or whatever, because sisters are mean (yes, yes we are).

Of course, the story can’t stop there because this is a mystery series, and so Flavia gets caught up in first the disentombment at her church of its namesake, St. Tancred, and then quickly after that the investigation into why a missing church organist was found super-dead atop said tomb. Seriously, people, get out of Bishop’s Lacey, it is dangerous.

I quite liked the return to mystery from the get-go, as opposed to the half-mystery of the second and fourth novels (somehow I sense I will be upset again in the sixth…), and I very much liked how this mystery introduced us to a lot of new characters in Bishop’s Lacey and environs, including a strange man locked in a tower who thinks Flavia (who has of course broken in to see him) is her mother. Although there have been way too many murders for Flavia to solve lately, the real thrust of this series, is, I think, Flavia solving those mysteries of childhood — who are these people who live in my town, how do they know me and my parents, is it possible that my parents were real people before they were my parents?

And that last line, oh my heavens. Alan Bradley, you know how to make me come back for more. But you’d better deliver!

Recommendation: I’m back on board with this series, which I really hope doesn’t become an every-other-novel thing. But seriously, if nothing else go read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie because delightful.

Rating: 8/10

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley

I Am Half-Sick of ShadowsAlan Bradley is just messing with me now, isn’t he? I was so excited in the last Flavia novel that the mystery managed to get off the ground within the first sixth of the book, but here he is back to his second-novel ways waiting until nearly halfway through for someone to kick the bucket! I spent the better part of three weeks just getting there.

But once there was death and intrigue, I was hooked, and I finished the rest in a couple hours. Bradley certainly knows how to write a thrilling story when he wants to.

Anyway, in this installment Papa de Luce, who has been generally hard up for cash through the series, has invited a movie crew to film on the de Luce estate, which is pretty cool. Even cooler, to most people, is that Fancy Pants Actress Phyllis Wyvern (think Marilyn Monroe, maybe?) is the star. Flavia spends some time getting in good with her, to the consternation of her sister, who actually wants to be BFFs with Phyllis but keeps making a fool out of herself instead.

That’s basically the first half of the novel, and it manages to be pretty interesting if not engrossing — Wyvern is awesome like a star but also haughty and entitled like a star, and she crosses that line deftly, and Flavia’s interactions with her are very telling of Flavia’s outlook on life and relationships in general.

Then someone gets all strangled and stuff and the investigation happens slowly enough for me to be like, who done it?, but fast enough that it doesn’t get bogged down in red herrings, of which there are a few.

I think I would be into a collection of “Flavia solves a mystery!” short stories and also a collection of “Flavia interacts with humans!” short stories, but I’m falling out of love with the combination of the two. And really, Flavia can only Jessica Fletcher it up so many more times before she’s just going to have to have been an 11-year-old serial killer the whole time.

Recommendation: I do love me some Flavia, but I might suggest that you stick with original Flavia unless the series gets drastically better in the future.

Rating: 7/10