The Weed That String’s the Hangman’s Bag


By Alan Bradley

The Short Take:

Did Bradley follow up his first thoroughly delightful mystery with a worthy successor? Yes, he did indeed. Ten-year-old detective Flavia de Luce is still one of the most delightful fiction creations you’ll find. And, this mystery is worthy of her skills.

Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was just a joy to read — for any age. I wondered if his next effort would hold up. After all, now he was on a writing timetable and had to produce on schedule. Not to worry, Flavia continues to be just as bright, brave, inquisitive, vulnerable, and fascinated by poisons as in her first outing.

Even better, Bradley gives us further glimpses into the peculiar de Luce family. I was really hoping that as this series of books grew, so would our understanding of the strange distance between the family members. Bradley is in no rush to reveal all, but he is taking baby steps in the right direction to make one want to lap up every new book. Which, I must admit, I will.

The 1950s England setting for these books is inspired. So much of what we think of as modern life had not really caught hold yet, and England was still just barely scrambling out of the rubble of WWII. Childhood still had an innocence and freedom that is not to be found today¬†(at least that’s how we think of that era). It all adds to the charm.

There’s really only one thing I didn’t love about this book: the title. It is just too much to deal with. Sorry.

A Little Plot:

The traveling show vehicle of famous BBC puppet master Rupert Porson breaks down in Flavia’s town. The vicar cajoles him into putting on two puppet shows to raise money for the repairs he needs. The show is on.

Of course, it’s not long before someone turns up dead — murdered. And Flavia is off to find out who did it and why by hook or by crook. Sorry, you’re not getting more out of me. I don’t want to spoil your fun.

For more about Flavia de Luce and Alan Bradley, click here.

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