Monday, December 26, 2011

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

Flavia de Luce, girl chemist with a possibly unhealthy interest in death is on the case again. In this sequel to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, a puppet show run by the charismatic and crippled by polio Rupert comes to town. His assistant Nialla has been placed in a desperate position.
When Rupert ends up dead, Flavia is left to untangle the strings of this mystery. Rupert may be more than just a passerby, his history and the history of the inhabitants of Bishop Lacy prove to be tangled together. The mysterious death of a village boy, the mad woman in the woods, and secret liaisons all conspire to make a puzzle for Flavia to solve.

I very much enjoyed The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and was interested in seeing how Bradley would follow it up. He continues to explore Flavia's unique skills and talents. We gain insight into her thought process and her talent with chemical equations. Also though, Bradley expands on her emotional life as well in this volume. Her anxiety over her relationship with her sisters and her questions about the mother she never knew are touched on.
Some of the Bishop Lacey residents of the first novel appear again, but we are introduced to other locals who each help Flavia piece together the solutions to the Rupert's death as well as a death from half a decade before.
Though perhaps, lacking some of the dramatic tension of the first novel, it's still a fun read. Bradley's chapters move quickly, each one fairly short and moving. There are some satisfying twists that may come as a surprise. The solution to the mystery, however left me with mixed feelings, especially over how the murderer should be punished.
The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag is a fun, quick read that takes you back into the world of Flavia de Luce, a charismatic, but flawed and surprising believable young girl with remarkable skills. The third book A Red Herring Without Mustard will go on my TBR list. Sequels don't always live up to the quality of the first, but this novel came fairly close.

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