Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley, writer, media technologist and teacher (born at Toronto, Ont, 1938). Alan Bradley was raised in Cobourg Ontario. An early reader of mystery stories, he attended RYERSON UNIVERSITY and worked as a television engineer in Saskatoon before beginning a long teaching career in his field at the UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN. Bradley's popular Flavia de Luce mystery series, whose characters have vibrant intellectual lives and value learning, logic and rational thought, is set in post-war English villages where cruelty, crime and chaos are never far from the surface.

Alan Bradley wrote screenplays and award winning short stories while teaching. In 2004 he and co-writer William A.S. Sarjeant wrote the controversial study Ms. Holmes of Baker Street, positing Sherlock Holmes was a woman. This was followed by his memoir The Shoebox Bible (2006). Bradley turned to fiction after winning the 2007 British Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger Award, a prize for unpublished short fiction. That draft was to become his first novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (2009), introducing protagonist Flavia De Luce, a bright 11-year-old living in crumbling Buckshaw manor. It is chemistry, and unraveling its formulae, that provides Flavia with a feeling of order in her chaotic existence: "What intrigued me more than anything was finding out the way in which everything, all of creation...was held together by invisible chemical bonds...there was real stability." Alan Bradley's first work was nominated for and won awards including the 2009 Agatha Award for Best First Novel and the 2010 Arthur Ellis First Novel award for 2010 (SeePOPULAR FICTION IN ENGLISH).

Alan Bradley's interest in children's idealism and how it is eroded continues into his second work in the series, The Weed that Strings The Hangman's Bag (2010). Returning to the small village of Bishop's Lacey, Flavia meets a famous puppet master and his weeping assistant Nialla in the church graveyard. Flavia is keenly observant of adults' absurdities: "It has been my experience that facetiousness in the mouth of someone old enough to know better is often no more than camouflage for something far, far worse." In his third novel, A Red Herring Without Mustard (2011), Bradley takes darker turns and we see Flavia's resilience. She recognizes an edge to the taunts of her devilish sisters: "I realized that of all the invisible strings that tied us together, the dark ones were the strongest." Darker too are the familiar Bishop's Lacey folk, driven by prejudice and hatred when they accuse a gypsy woman of kidnapping and murder. 2012's I am Half Sick of Shadows is set over Christmas. Flavia discovers a strangled stranger and begins her investigations, but is sidetracked by her efforts to trap Saint Nicholas, reminding us that she is still a child: "Feely and Duffy didn't believe in Father Christmas...I wasn't sure." In Speaking From Among The Bones (2013) Flavia discovers the body of the church organist at an anniversary celebration, and the implications of her solutions spell danger for her.

In each of Bradley's works in the series, he has tried to recapture a bygone era: a world of puppet shows on the village green, rare stamps on letters and murderous strangers filling falling houses with mysteries. Beneath this surface, Alan Bradley's Flavia brightly personifies the endless rewards of the intellectual life and the pleasures of the mind, regardless of the long shadows cast by life, be it war, murder or mayhem. Bradley has created an appealing paradox of a happy young girl surrounded by death, finding joy in the ordered elements of science. She forms an ironic and modern beacon for the future, hers and ours: a passion for logic formulated with her willingness to use it for good.

Alan Bradley has served as chair of Saskatchewan Writers Federation and now travels the world while writing.