The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (Canada) - (USA)
The Buckshaw Chronicles, #2
Pages: 348 pages
Finished: May 7, 2010
First Published: Match 9, 2010
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
I was lying dead in the churchyard.
Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.
Reason for Reading: Next in the series.
Flavia's second case follows the traditional set up of the golden-age of classic British mysteries. A travelling puppet show comes to town, but not just anyone; this is Ruper Porson famous for his television puppet show. He agrees to put a show on for the village. At this point the reader is completely immersed in the story, introduced to all the characters, in the village, and the newcomers, along with bits and pieces of backstories but never enough to let us know who is going to commit a murder. And a murder there will be, just like the classic Agatha Christie we know this is all building up to the right moment and we've figured out who will get murdered and probably when but not how.
Once the murder has been committed the rest of the book follows through keeping the pacing and formatting similar to the classic British mystery. Of course there are a few modern twists, our protagonist is an 11-year old girl, who is fascinated with poisons and completely knowledgeable in chemistry and herbs to be able to make an unlimited amount of poisons and their remedies. Flavia is a very interesting character. She is bright and knows it but is never smarmy or ignorant to adults. She knows when to use the child side of her to get more answers for certain witnesses. Flavia starts out by totally expecting the police to take her on as a deductive member of the team from her experiences showing them her skills last time but when she is questioned and then sent along she is feels indignant that they would dismiss her so easily. So Flavia takes on the case by herself, sneaking around, traveling by bicycle (just like the old-time female British sleuths!) and getting interviews that the police couldn't possibly succeed in as well as she, beloved child and fellow villager, is able. The author seems to have a good hold on her character by this point, as she is now entirely believable as a child, which I had problems with in the first book. It is good to see the character more realistic and fleshed out.
I will say though, I didn't enjoy this book as much as The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I think the original uniqueness of the situation has worn off a bit and while the book is so comparable to a typical Agatha Christie or Ngaio Marsh, I do prefer my mysteries nowadays to start right off the bat with the murder. O course that's just me. Flavia de Luce is going to be a winner with all lovers of British cozies, one you'll surely not want to miss.
An interview with the author: