Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley

Book description:
"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.

Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What of the vicar’s odd ministrations to the catatonic woman in the dovecote? Then there’s a German pilot obsessed with the Brontë sisters, a reproachful spinster aunt, and even a box of poisoned chocolates. Most troubling of all is Porson’s assistant, the charming but erratic Nialla. All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head?"

This second installment of the series is even more satisfying than the first; Flavia de Luce is without a doubt the most entertaining sleuth to make an appearance in decades. In this story, Flavia finds herself embroiled in the mysterious death of visiting puppeteer Rupert Porson, a BBC personality marooned in Bishop's Lacy by the breakdown of his van. As Flavia learns more about Rupert's many women, she is haunted as well by the bizarre hanging death of five year-old Robin Ingleby some years before.

Flavia remains her wonderful precocious self, using complicated chemical tests to analyze tears, create poisons, and (of course) ultimately solve the mysteries. Though Daffy, Feely and Father all have cameo roles, this story is more focused on other inhabitants of the perfect country town of Bishop's Lacy. The expanded cast of characters makes for an enjoyable read as more quirky personalities act as a foil to Flavia's quiet (and still disturbing) brilliance. The reader can't help but reflect on the likelihood that Flavia might one day find herself on the other side of the magnifying glass.

Once I started, I couldn't put this one down- Flavia and her quest for truth is just that compelling. Alan Bradley has another hit on his hands, and fans of Flavia have even more evidence to support their passion. My only regret is the time I will have to wait to read the third installment of Flavia's story...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ack! Jealous! I can't even get my hands on the first one - there are five holds ahead of mine at the library, and the bookshop claims to have a copy (so they won't order it for me) but it's nowhere to be found. It is sad, and frustrating.