Book Review

Review: The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley

the weed that strings the hangman's bag

Number of pages: 343

Format: hardcover and paperback

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Genre: detective mystery

Rating: ages 18 and up

Notes: This is book 2 in the Flavia de Luce series


Flavia de Luce is no ordinary 11-year-old; she has a passion for chemistry and is a genius in detective work. Nothing is left quiet in the village of Bishop Lacey when a new mystery arrives, but this time it has to do with travelling gypsies and a puppet show. When Rupert Porson, a beloved puppeteer, has his strings tied (and sizzled) with electricity everyone is left aghast. Everyone except Flavia, who puts aside her chemistry experiments and schemes for vengeance upon her insufferable sisters, and once again, unleashes her pre-adolescent detective abilities to solve the mystery behind the puppeteer’s death.

My Thoughts:

A sequel to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, another riveting mystery occurs in the quiet town of Bishops Lacey. After witnessing the death of Rupert Porson on stage during a live performance of Jack and the Beanstalk, Flavia de Luce automatically turns to detective mode. I absolutely can’t get enough of our heroine, as she is the most brilliant, talented, precocious, sly, and clever 11-year-old girl I’ve ever read. A pre-adolescent sleuth whose deduction abilities impress the stiff upper-lip Inspector Hewitt, Flavia enchants us as a mad scientist and a young Sherlock as she learns to amuse herself with Bishop Lacey’s mysteries and the de Luce family secrets (while planning vengeance on her intolerable older sisters).

Alan Bradley’s Bishop Lacy comes to life introducing us with a handful of new and interesting characters. From the womanizer Rupert Porson to his assistant, a gypsy woman who calls herself Mother Goose, and Mad Meg who inhabits a shack in Gibbet Wood, and Dieter a German war prisoner whose passion for English literature stems from his love of the Bronte sisters. Each character is a suspect in Flavia’s investigation as she unwittingly uses her charm to question her neighbours in search of answers. As she does so, she stumbles upon yet another mystery, one that took place at Gibbet Wood in 1945 and is connected to the present. Following a series of clues involving muddy footprints, a golden compact, and a bicycle clip, Flavia follows the trail until she unravels the truth behind both murders connected to the same thread.

A pint-size detective with an extraordinary knowledge in chemistry and household poisons that would baffle any scientist in addition to her cunning and witting personality, Flavia has the makings of an Eloise and Sherlock Holmes all rolled into one. And the villagers of Bishop Lacey’s are just as animated as the de Luce family, making the fictional setting a brilliant backdrop to the series. But I feel that there’s something amiss between the de Luce sisters, as Ophelia and Daphne continue to torment Flavia with cruelty, but to what cost? Could the change of behaviour have anything to do with the loss of their beloved mother? Does Flavia inherit so much of her mother’s abilities and spiffing image that cause her sisters to boil with envy? There’s definitely a secret behind the confines of the crumbling Buckshaw mansion, and with the family that dwells there we can only wait and see what other secrets are hidden inside the household.

An enchanting mystery told in first-person POV, Flavia has once again entertained us with her devious charm and spirit. A chemical prodigy, Flavia de Luce has made a permanent place in the detective mystery genre, with a series enjoyed by the young and older adults. I haven’t been this excited since I read Sir Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, as Alan Bradley has written an original series while delighting us with a dark and witty young sleuth whose hidden gifts continue to astound us.

My verdict: 4 hoots out of 5.


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