“Eleven-year-olds are supposed to be unreliable. We’re past the age of being poppets: the age where people bend over and poke us in the tum with their fingers and make idiotic noises that sond like ‘boof-boof’—just the thought of which is enough to make me bring up my Bovril. And yet we’re still not at the age where anyone ever mistakes us for a grown-up. The fact is, we’re invisible—except when we choose not to be.” – From The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
(Book 2 in the Flavia De Luce mystery series)
Back for a second delightful chemical concoction, precocious Flavia De Luce pokes her nose in another mystery when the Porson’s Puppets van breaks down outside St. Tancred’s church.
The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
, a much more pleasant brew than The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
(book 1 in the Flavia De Luce series), finds the plucky 11-year-old amateur sleuth (and chemist) embroiled in yet another mystery. This time, Flavia confronts a weeping, bruised redheaded woman draped over a grave and a polio-stricken TV puppeteer, both stranded at St. Tancred’s.
As in book 1, Flavia experiments in her Great Uncle Tar’s Victorian laboratory, finding surprising results as always (she begins with testing the crying woman’s tears and moves on to a mysterious crop growing in Gibbet Wood’s clearing). And, of course, no Flavia de Luce mystery would be complete without her using some odious chemical compound to foil one of her nasty sisters…
When someone ends up fried in the middle of a special, live Porson’s Puppets show of Jack and the Beanstalk at St. Tancred’s, Flavia knows it wasn’t an accident—and neither does Dogger or the police that happen to be in attendance. When Inspector Hewitt questions Flavia (along with the other performance attendees) and insults her by saying it was “probably past her bedtime”, she decides that two can play that game (“The nerve of the man!”)—and withholds vital information.
The audience was *already* unsettled since the wooden puppet Jack looks just like the dead 5-year old Robin Ingleby, a boy found hanging in Gibbet Wood several years before. But when the show ends with a gruesome shock and the lights go out…
Mixing in a surprise visit from imposing Aunt Felicity, father’s financial worries (they may lose Buckshaw, the family home), and increasingly cruel siblings Ophelia and Daphne, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
paints a much more sympathetic portrait of a lonely Flavia than book 1.
In addition, the multiple mysteries in book 2 are far more engrossing than the boring (to me) central plot of book 1
(philately!), with more compelling, colorful characters to boot. In fact, I enjoyed this book so much, I couldn’t wait to steal aside time to read it, often staying up well-past my intended bedtime!
If you enjoy old-fashioned detective mysteries, the Flavia de Luce series brings 1950s England to life with a plucky, resourceful, lethally intelligent heroine. I recommend reading book 1, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
, to become familiar with the setting, recurring characters and integral back-story (such as Flavia’s mother’s death in Tibet).
-- Janet Boyer, http://JanetBoyer.com
However, it’s book 2, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
that sparkles with author Alan Bradley’s fine writing, quirky characters (Mad Meg!) and absorbing plot. I’m eagerly anticipating book 3 in the Flavia de Luce mystery series; well done, Mr. Bradley!