Alan Bradley – The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

I devoured the first Flavia de Luce mystery while on holiday. I thought it would be perfect for a lazy afternoon at the beach and some light reading. While it wasn’t a perfect book, I found myself missing that charming young protagonist with a passion for poisons and a knack for mystery-solving. It is not so much the plot of these stories as the voice in which it is told that captivated me and that I can’t seem to get enough of.

by Alan Bradley

Published: Dell 2010
Copy: ebook
Series: Flavia de Luce #2

My rating: 7/10
Goodreads: 3,95/5

First sentence: I was lying dead in the churchyard.

When a traveling puppet show sets up on the village green in Bishop’s Lacey, death stalks the little stage. Flavia goes behind the scenes to learn the craft (so to speak) in order to catch an ingenious killer. Flavia thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacy are over—and then Rupert Porson has an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. The beloved puppeteer has had his own strings sizzled, but who’d do such a thing and why? For Flavia, the questions are intriguing enough to make her put aside her chemistry experiments and schemes of vengeance against her insufferable big sisters. Astride Gladys, her trusty bicycle, Flavia sets out from the de Luces’ crumbling family mansion in search of Bishop’s Lacey’s deadliest secrets.

Our clever little sleuth of a heroine is back. And it doesn’t take too long for somebody else to drop dead in her surroundings. There is puppetry, there are murdered children, there are (of course) poisons, and yes, the titular weed is the one you’re thinking of. While I enjoyed the theme of this volume more than the first novel, it is not the plot that drew me in – and I suspect, this will continue as the series goes on. Flavia is solving the case of a puppeteer dropping dead during a show with a whole range of suspects, not a lot of motive, and the past catching up with the present…

Alan Bradley has given Flavia de Luce the most charming voice I could imagine. Much like the Alexia Tarabotti novels, this series lives from its wit and its remarkably clever heroine as much as from what is simply good writing. Flavia, as much as I liked her already, has grown ever so much more dear to me. Who wouldn’t want to be friends (or a mother to) that kind of eleven-year-old? Her passion for chemistry is still as powerful, even though it isn’t vital to the plot. It does give her personality more depth though and teaches me quite a few little tidbits about the subject. Hurrah for educating your readers, Mr Bradley!

As Flavia leads us past that fateful puppet show, meets new characters and shows us more of Bishop’s Lacey, we both read an entirely new and separate story – good for standalone-lovers – but we also get a glimpse of novelty. Flavia’s home life, her family and the nearby village all grow a little in depth. Which is exactly what I was hoping for, as we didn’t see a whole lot of it in the first book. If the series continues in the same vein, with standalone crime stories and an overarching continuation of Flavia’s life in general, I will go so far as to call myself a fan.

My suspicions as to who the murderer(s) was showed once more that I’m not well-read when it comes to the crime genre. Who is really pulling the strings in this game of memory and secrets came as a surprise to me, even though I had all the necessary clues. More experienced readers of the genre may not be fooled as easily but personally, I enjoyed this little adventure very, very much.

THE GOOD: A charming heroine with a quick mind and great storytelling abilities.
THE BAD: There is still room for improvement. I would like (even) more family life, more de Luce craziness and more quaint villagers.
THE VERDICT: Another light and fun mystery story with an endearing leading lady and a clever murderer.

RATING: 7/10  Very good.

The Flavia de Luce Mysteries:

  1. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  2. The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
  3. A Red Herring Without Mustard
  4. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
  5. Speaking From Among the Bones
  6. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches

2 thoughts on “Alan Bradley – The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

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