The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, by Alan Bradley

I read and enjoyed The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie way back in October, and I was delighted that there would be a sequel! I actually got my hands on a copy the day it was released, but various school- and work-related happenings meant I couldn’t read it until it was well overdue to the library. Ah, well. So it goes.

The plot is thus: a travelling puppet show breaks down in Flavia’s village and she makes friends with one of the pair, to whom the other of the pair is acting atrocious. The village’s vicar invites the puppeteer to put on a show in town to make some money for the repairs of his vehicle, and Flavia ends up helping to prepare the show while spending her spare time being incredibly snoopy into the pair’s affairs. Eventually a Terrible Thing happens and Flavia sets to solving the mystery.

It’s hard to summarize this second mystery novel, as it is kind of short on the mystery… I mean, there’s talk of what ends up being the mystery early on, but no one new dies until nearly halfway through the book, at which point I thought that the story would pick up but it didn’t, really. And when the mystery was all wrapped up I wasn’t sure that I, as the reader, had been shown enough clues to have figured out the mystery myself, which always makes me cranky. But for the most part, this book is less mystery and more “let’s put a bit more backstory into Bishop’s Lacey,” which is all well and good but I wish I had been warned.

However, the writing is still fun and Flavia is still delightfully focused on her chemistry, so it’s not all bad. I was thoroughly engrossed in reading the book once I had a chance to sit down and do so, and I am intrigued to see where Bradley goes in the next book, which he is apparently already writing. As long as he doesn’t rely too much on precociousness and science to woo me (which, well, it does), I think the series could do very well.

Rating: 6/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2010, Orbist Terrarum Cahllenge: Canada, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley (20 October — 23 October)

This book was really cute and enjoyable and full of just enough precociousness that I was entertained and not annoyed by the small child that is the protagonist. For yes, one Flavia Sabina de Luce, aged 11, is the heroine and crime-solver in this mystery. She also likes chemistry, especially poisons, and is kind of overbearingly smart but then I think so was I (in math, though, not in chemistry) at that age, so, you know. Can’t really complain.

Flavia’s mystery is one of murder and deceit and all the good things that crime stories are made of, set in a lovely little English town in the 1950s. One day, Flavia overhears her father arguing with a mysterious stranger in his office; the next, she is finding said mysterious stranger even more mysteriously dying in her garden. She hears his last word, “Vale” (Latin, of course!), and runs off to tell the police. Of course, the lead inspector condescends to our genius friend, and Flavia decides to go off and solve the crime herself. It’s a good time.

Some of Flavia’s experiences and the things she knew were a touch unbelievable, but not enough that I really cared. 🙂 Generally, the whole novel flowed really well together, and even when it didn’t — like during the middle section where Flavia’s father goes off on a ridiculously long stroll down Memory Lane (Memory Interstate?) — I learned so many probably true things about chemistry and philately and magic tricks that I was sufficiently amused. I was excited to note in the “About the Author” section that there will be a second Flavia de Luce mystery. Yay, science!

Rating: 8/10
(RIP Challenge, Countdown Challenge: 2009)

See also:
Stainless Steel Droppings
Medieval Bookworm
Back to Books
Thoughts of Joy

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.