Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? 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?
BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Alan Bradley's A Red Herring Without Mustard, discussion questions, and an essay by the author.
About the Author
Alan Bradley is the New York Times bestselling author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. His first Flavia de Luce novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Agatha Award, the Macavity Award, and the Barry Award, and was nominated for the Anthony Award. His other Flavia de Luce novels are The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, A Red Herring Without Mustard, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Speaking from Among the Bones, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, and The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place, as well as the ebook short story “The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse.”
Read an Excerpt
I was lying dead in the churchyard. An hour had crept by since the mourners had said their last sad farewells.
At twelve o’clock, just at the time we should otherwise have been sitting down to lunch, there had been the departure from Buckshaw: my polished rosewood coffin being brought out of the drawing room, carried slowly down the broad stone steps to the driveway, and slid with heartbreaking ease into the open door of the waiting hearse, crushing beneath it a little bouquet of wildflowers that had been laid gently inside by one of the grieving villagers.
Then there had been the long drive down the avenue of chestnuts to the Mulford Gates, whose rampant griffins looked away as we passed, though whether in sadness or in apathy I would never know.
Dogger, Father’s devoted jack-of-all-trades, had paced in measured step alongside the slow hearse, his head bowed, his hand resting lightly on its roof, as if to shield my remains from something that only he could see. At the gates, one of the undertaker’s mutes had finally coaxed him, by using hand signals, into a hired motorcar.
And so they had brought me to the village of Bishop’s Lacey, passing somberly through the same green lanes and dusty hedgerows I had bicycled every day when I was alive.
At the heaped-up churchyard of St. Tancred’s, they had taken me gently from the hearse and borne me at a snail’s pace up the path beneath the limes. Here, they had put me down for a moment in the new-mown grass.
Then had come the service at the gaping grave, and there had been a note of genuine grief in the voice of the vicar as he pronounced the traditional words.
It was the first time I’d heard the Order for the Burial of the Dead from this vantage point. We had attended last year, with Father, the funeral of old Mr. Dean, the village greengrocer. His grave, in fact, was just a few yards from where I was presently lying. It had already caved in, leaving not much more than a rectangular depression in the grass that was, more often than not, filled with stagnant rainwater.
My oldest sister, Ophelia, said it collapsed because Mr. Dean had been resurrected and was no longer bodily present, while Daphne, my other sister, said it was because he had plummeted through into an older grave whose occupant had disintegrated.
I thought of the soup of bones below: the soup of which I was about to become just another ingredient.
Flavia Sabina de Luce, 1939–1950, they would cause to be carved on my gravestone, a modest and tasteful gray marble thing with no room for false sentiments.
Pity. If I’d lived long enough, I’d have left written instructions calling for a touch of Wordsworth:
A maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love.
And if they’d balked at that, I’d have left this as my second choice:
Truest hearts by deeds unkind
To despair are most inclined.
Only Feely, who had played and sung them at the piano, would recognize the lines from Thomas Campion’s Third Book of Airs, and she would be too consumed by guilty grief to tell anyone.
My thoughts were interrupted by the vicar’s voice.
“. . . earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body . . .”
And suddenly they had gone, leaving me there alone—alone to listen for the worms.
This was it: the end of the road for poor Flavia.
By now the family would already be back at Buckshaw, gathered round the long refectory table: Father seated in his usual stony silence, Daffy and Feely hugging one another with slack, tearstained faces as Mrs. Mullet, our cook, brought in a platter of baked meats.
I remembered something that Daffy had once told me when she was devouring The Odyssey: that baked meats, in ancient Greece, were traditional funeral fare, and I had replied that, in view of Mrs. Mullet’s cooking, not much had changed in two and a half thousand years.
But now that I was dead, I thought, perhaps I ought to practice being somewhat more charitable.
Dogger, of course, would be inconsolable. Dear Dogger: butler-cum- chauffeur-cum-valet-cum-gardener-cum-estate-manager: a poor shell- shocked soul whose capabilities ebbed and flowed like the Severn tides; Dogger, who had recently saved my life and forgotten it by the next morning. I should miss him terribly.
And I should miss my chemistry laboratory. I thought of all the golden hours I’d spent there in that abandoned wing of Buckshaw, blissfully alone among the flasks, the retorts, and the cheerily bubbling tubes and beakers. And to think that I’d never see them again. It was almost too much to bear.
I listened to the rising wind as it whispered overhead in the branches of the yew trees. It was already growing cool here in the shadows of St. Tancred’s tower, and it would soon be dark.
Poor Flavia! Poor, stone-cold-dead Flavia.
By now, Daffy and Feely would be wishing that they hadn’t been so downright rotten to their little sister during her brief eleven years on this earth.
At the thought, a tear started down my cheek.
Would Harriet be waiting to welcome me to Heaven?
Harriet was my mother, who had died in a mountaineering accident a year after I was born. Would she recognize me after ten years? Would she still be dressed in the mountain-climbing suit she was wearing when she met her end, or would she have swapped it by now for a white robe?
Well, whatever she was wearing, I knew it would be stylish.
There was a sudden clatter of wings: a noise that echoed loudly from the stone wall of the church, amplified to an alarming volume by a half acre of stained glass and the leaning gravestones that hemmed me in. I froze.
Could it be an angel—or more likely, an archangel—coming down to return Flavia’s precious soul to Paradise? If I opened my eyes the merest slit, I could see through my eyelashes, but only dimly.
No such luck: It was one of the tattered jackdaws that were always hanging round St. Tancred’s. These vagabonds had been nesting in the tower since its thirteenth-century stonemasons had packed up their tools and departed.
Now the idiotic bird had landed clumsily on top of a marble finger that pointed to Heaven, and was regarding me coolly, its head cocked to one side, with its bright, ridiculous boot-button eyes.
Jackdaws never learn. No matter how many times I played this trick they always, sooner or later, came flapping down from the tower to investigate. To the primeval mind of a jackdaw, any body horizontal in a churchyard could have only one meaning: food.
As I had done a dozen times before, I leapt to my feet and flung the stone that was concealed in my curled fingers. I missed—but then I nearly always did.
With an “awk” of contempt, the thing sprang into the air and flapped off behind the church, towards the river.
Now that I was on my feet, I realized I was hungry. Of course I was! I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. For a moment I wondered vaguely if I might find a few leftover jam tarts or a bit of cake in the kitchen of the parish hall. The St. Tancred’s Ladies’ Auxiliary had gathered the night before, and there was always the chance.
As I waded through the knee-high grass, I heard a peculiar snuffling sound, and for a moment, I thought the saucy jackdaw had come back to have the last word.
I stopped and listened.
And then it came again.
I find it sometimes a curse and sometimes a blessing that I have inherited Harriet’s acute sense of hearing, since I am able, as I am fond of telling Feely, to hear things that would make your hair stand on end. One of the sounds to which I am particularly attuned is the sound of someone crying.
It was coming from the northwest corner of the churchyard—from somewhere near the wooden shed in which the sexton kept his grave- digging tools. As I crept slowly forward on tiptoe, the sound grew louder: Someone was having a good old-fashioned cry, of the knock-’em- down-drag-’em-out variety.
It is a simple fact of nature that while most men can walk right past a weeping woman as if their eyes are blinkered and their ears stopped up with sand, no female can ever hear the sound of another in distress without rushing instantly to her aid.
I peeped round a black marble column, and there she was, stretched out full length, facedown on the slab of a limestone tomb, her red hair flowing out across the weathered inscription like rivulets of blood. Except for the cigarette wedged stylishly erect between her fingers, she might have been a painting by one of the Pre-Raphaelites, such as Burne-Jones. I almost hated to intrude.
“Hullo,” I said. “Are you all right?”
It is another simple fact of nature that one always begins such conversations with an utterly stupid remark. I was sorry the instant I’d uttered it.
“Oh! Of course I’m all right,” she cried, leaping to her feet and wiping her eyes. “What do you mean by creeping up on me like that? Who are you, anyway?”
With a toss of her head she flung back her hair and stuck out her chin. She had the high cheekbones and the dramatically triangular face of a silent cinema star, and I could see by the way she bared her teeth that she was terrified.
“Flavia,” I said. “My name is Flavia de Luce. I live near here—at Buckshaw.”
I jerked my thumb in the general direction.
She was still staring at me like a woman in the grip of a nightmare.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
She pulled herself up to her full height—which couldn’t have been much more than five feet and an inch or two—and took a step towards me, like a hot-tempered version of the Botticelli Venus that I’d once seen on a Huntley and Palmers biscuit tin.
I stood my ground, staring at her dress. It was a creamy cotton print with a gathered bodice and a flaring skirt, covered all over with a myriad of tiny flowers, red, yellow, blue, and a bright orange the color of poppies and, I couldn’t help noticing, a hem that was stained with half-dried mud.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, taking an affected drag on her angled cigarette. “Never seen anyone famous before?”
Famous? I hadn’t the faintest idea who she was. I had half a mind to tell her that I had indeed seen someone famous, and that it was Winston Churchill. Father had pointed him out to me from a London taxicab. Churchill had been standing in front of the Savoy with his thumbs hooked in his waistcoat pockets, talking to a man in a yellow mackintosh.
“Good old Winnie,” Father had breathed, as if to himself.
“Oh, what’s the use?” the woman said. “Bloody place . . . bloody people . . . bloody motorcars!” And she began to cry again.
“Is there something I can do to help?” I asked.
“Oh, go away and leave me alone,” she sobbed.
Very well, then, I thought. Actually, I thought more than that, but since I’m trying to be a better person . . .
I stood there for a moment, leaning forward a bit to see if her fallen tears were reacting with the porous surface of the tombstone. Tears, I knew, were composed largely of water, sodium chloride, manganese, and potassium, while limestone was made up chiefly of calcite, which was soluble in sodium chloride—but only at high temperatures. So unless the temperature of St. Tancred’s churchyard went up suddenly by several hundred degrees, it seemed unlikely that anything chemically interesting was going to be happening here.
I turned and walked away.
“Flavia . . .”
I looked back. She was reaching out a hand to me.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just that it’s been an awfully bloody day, all round.”
I stopped—then paced slowly, warily back as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Rupert was in a foul mood to begin with—even before we left Stoatmoor this morning. We’d had rather a row, I’m afraid, and then the whole business with the van—it was simply the last straw. He’s gone off to find someone to fix it, and I’m . . . well, here I am.”
“I like your red hair,” I said. She touched it instantly and smiled, as I somehow knew she would.
“Carrot-top, they used to call me when I was your age. Carrot-top! Fancy!”
“Carrot tops are green,” I said. “Who’s Rupert?”
“Who’s Rupert?” she asked. “You’re having me on!”
She pointed a finger and I turned to look: Parked in the lane at the corner of the churchyard was a dilapidated van—an Austin Eight. On its side panel, in showy gold circus letters, still legible through a heavy coating of mud and dust, were the words porson’s puppets.
“Rupert Porson,” she said. “Everyone knows Rupert Porson. Rupert Porson, as in Snoddy the Squirrel—The Magic Kingdom. Haven’t you seen him on the television?”
Snoddy the Squirrel? The Magic Kingdom?
“We don’t have the television at Buckshaw,” I said. “Father says it’s a filthy invention.”
“Father is an uncommonly wise man,” she said. “Father is undoubtedly—”
She was interrupted by the metallic rattle of a loose chain guard as the vicar came wobbling round the corner of the church. He dismounted and leaned his battered Raleigh up against a handy headstone. As he walked towards us, I reflected that Canon Denwyn Richardson was not anyone’s image of a typical village vicar. He was large and bluff and hearty, and if he’d had tattoos, he might have been mistaken for the captain of one of those rusty tramp steamers that drags itself wearily from one sun-drenched port to another in whatever God-awful outposts are still left of the British Empire.
His black clerical outfit was smudged and streaked with chalky dust, as if he’d come a cropper on his bicycle.
“Blast!” he said when he spotted me. “I’ve lost my trouser clip and torn my cuff to ribbons,” and then, dusting himself off as he walked towards us, he added, “Cynthia’s going to have me on the carpet.”
The woman’s eyes widened and she shot me a quick glance.
“She’s recently begun scratching my initials on my belongings with a needle,” he added, “but that hasn’t kept me from losing things. Last week, the hectograph sheets for the parish bulletin, the week before, a brass doorknob from the vestry. Maddening, really.
“Hello, Flavia,” he added. “Always nice to see you at church.”
“This is our vicar, Canon Richardson,” I told the redheaded woman. “Perhaps he can help.”
“Denwyn,” the vicar said, holding out a hand to the stranger. “We don’t stand much on ceremony since the war.”
The woman stuck out two or three fingers and touched his palm, but said nothing. As she extended her hand, the short sleeve of her dress slid up, and I had a quick glimpse of the ugly green and purple bruise on her upper arm. She covered it hastily with her left hand as she tugged the cotton fabric down to hide it.
What People are Saying About This
“Flavia is incisive, cutting and hilarious . . . one of the most remarkable creations in recent literature.”—USA Today
“Utterly beguiling . . . wicked wit . . . The real delight here is [Flavia’s] droll voice and the eccentric cast.”—People (four stars)
“Bradley takes everything you expect and subverts it, delivering a smart, irreverent, unsappy mystery.” —Entertainment Weekly
“A pitch-perfect performance that surpasses an already worthy debut.”—Houston Chronicle
“Discovering Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books is several steps beyond pleasure—it’s a sheer delight.”—Winston-Salem Journal
“Wickedly funny.”—The Times-Picayune
Reading Group Guide
1. The novel opens with Flavia going over the circumstances of her own death, as she lies in the churchyard. What effect did this opening have on your reading, or your understanding of Flavia?
2. In interviews, Alan Bradley has often spoken of Flavia’s idealism, and how her extensive understanding of chemistry is offset by a complete lack of understanding when it comes to family relationships. Discuss Flavia’s place within the de Luce family.
3. As Flavia shows Nialla and Rupert the way to Culverhouse Farm, they run into Mad Meg, who tells them, “the Devil’s come back to Gibbet Wood” and also quotes Matthew 10:16 – “Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” What does she mean? Do you think she is trying to give Flavia a clue as to what she’s seen?
4. Despite its lightness, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag is a dark novel, dealing with the death of a child and the deceptions that both preceded and followed that tragic event. How does Bradley balance the novel’s style with the subject matter?
5. Aunt Felicity is domineering and awful, despite the Colonel’s claims to the contrary; Cynthia is not the bishop’s helpful wife, but an “ogress.” Where do Flavia’s dark opinions of others come from? Is she purposefully undercutting the village’s charming veneer, or does she just not trust anyone?
6. Discuss the circumstances of Robin Ingleby’s death, and how Grace and Gordon Ingleby have lived for the five years since. Do you foresee an end to their grieving, once the truth comes to light?
7. Does Flavia truly engage in the surrounding world, or is her connection merely one of intellectual curiosity?
8. What do you make of Nialla’s reaction to Rupert’s death? Did you ever suspect her of murder? In the end, Flavia imagines her continuing on with the puppet show, out of the limelight…. Do you think she’s right?
9. Why does Flavia find it fairly easy to relate to Mad Meg while others in the village do not?
10. In one interview, Alan Bradley commented, “I don’t think we trust children enough any more [or] leave them alone enough… I recall being that age, and one of the greatest blessings was being left to myself. You find your own interests and amusements and pursue them — and that has a huge effect on the outcome of your life.” Are kids today given enough freedom? Or, is Flavia given too much?
11. One reviewer has compared the fictional setting of Bishop’s Lacey to Agatha Christie’s St. Mary Mead and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s London. Where do you see the Flavia books sitting in terms of traditional English mysteries, or the country-manor mystery genre in particular?
12. While the first two novels of the series have been enjoyed by teen readers as well, the books are written for adults. What is the appeal, for adult readers, of having a precocious eleven-year-old narrator like Flavia?
13. Should Rupert’s killer be send to prison?
14. These novels are so entertaining largely thanks to the originality of the supporting characters, those villagers and interlopers who unknowingly come under Flavia’s microscope with every paged turned. Who are the most interesting characters in the novel? Are there some you would like to see more of in future books?
15. What do you think the future holds for Flavia de Luce?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
While I did enjoy the second installment in the Flavia series, I have to say I was a little disappointed after the pace of the first book. For me, the action moved a little too slowly with the murder not occurring until almost half way through the book. But once Flavia's sleuthing skills kicked in, things picked up. All in all, it was a commendable second book in the series and I look forward to the next Flavia adventure. This is a gem of a character that puts a smile on my face!
Sometimes it pays to take the road less traveled. My list of last read books includes double intrigue spy and counter spy thrillers, tales of a Louisiana detective, the fall of the Roman Republic, life of Julius Caesar, Siege of Malta and a book about an eleven year old chemist whose hobby is poisons. I can begin a conversation about any of the above less the young chemist. What I can say is the English language, wry similes and memorable characters abound is this book. Alan Bradley's writing is a bargain at whatever you pay for his books. It is a fair bet you will search out and purchase all of the Flavia stories and you will be like me, not quite sure how to describe the pleasure each brings.
I enjoyed the first book very very much, and I eagerly waited for this second book to come out. I must say, I am very disappointed, because there is no point to the story, the story line is chopped up and all over the place, and Ms. Flavia is so much less witty, wicked and interesting in this second book. I don't think I'll be recommending this book to anyone at all.
Better than the first! Flavia is just as charming as in Sweetness, and I found the story line more compelling in this second. Can't wait to read the next one! Alan Bradley is such a gifted writer who has created an unusual character. There are times when she seems too "wise beyond her years" and the narration sounds too much like an adult, but overall, I love the characters and what Bradley does with them. Very enjoyable read!
This series of books by Alan Bradley are very well written and so cute! The heroine is an 11 year old girl who likes to dabble in her late great uncle's chemistry lab. She seems to fall into sleuthing the problems in her village. Very mid-1900s British background, just wholesome and fun and done quite well!
Just like the first book in this series, Flavia de Luce embarks on an adventure to solve a mystery. Everything about her delights me. I think it has to do with her being a little sneaky while still maintaining her goody-girl image. The mystery in this story unfolds at a good pace, keeping you interested till the end.
I love all the Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley.
I love Flavia, she is both a convincing eleven-year-old tearing around the village on her beloved bicycle, Gladys, and an excellent detective, determined to discover just who committed the murder. This is a charming, fun read.
In Alan Bradley¿s ¿The Weed That Strings the Hangman¿s Bag¿, Flavia de Luce is at it again. Chromosome-ally incapable of keeping herself out of the private events in the town of Bishop¿s Lacey, this chemistry-obsessed 10-year-old finds herself again in the thick of murder and madness.Nationally renowned puppeteer Rupert Porson find¿s himself stranded in Bishop¿s Lacey with car trouble. Soon enough Bishop¿s Lacey finds Rupert dead. What does a dead five-year-old boy, a field of cannabis, a deranged hermit-woman, and a hunky German POW have to do with it? Well, the local constabulary sure doesn¿t know. Good thing they have Flavia and her trusty bicycle Gladys to sort things out. This is Alan Bradley¿s sequel to the very popular ¿The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie¿, and likely the second of a very promising series. I¿ll admit, with reading the first book, I wasn¿t immediately enraptured by Flavia, her oddball family, and their charming village. (Neither was my initial impression of the first Harry Potter book positive, if that says anything.) In any case, with this book, I have been successfully won over (as I eventually was with Hogwarts). Bradley¿s characters and setting (and his bow towards post-WWII Britain) is winning and deftly written. This is a charming and fun book.
Just as adorably funny & light as the previous book, Bradley doesn't disappoint in this sophomore book in the Flavia deLuce series. In this one, Flavia again finds herself involved in dissecting a small village murder. This one had lots of interesting characters, some deadpan humor, and a little bit of outrageous incredibility, but was enjoyable all the same & kept me guessing until almost the end.
Oh I've been waiting and waiting for The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag! I fell in love with Alan Bradley's writing and his precocious protagonist - Flavia de Luce - in the first book in this series - The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. (you can read my rave review from last year) It is 1950 and eleven year old Flavia is passing the morning. pretending to be dead in the churchyard in the small English village of Bishop's Lacey. Her reverie is interrupted by someone's crying. Flavia of course, is not one to let anything that captures her interest go uninvestigated. She finds that the caravan belonging to Porson's Puppets has broken down. While waiting for the van to be fixed, Rupert Porson agrees to put on a puppet show for the village. The show takes an unexpected turn when Rupert is killed. Accident or murder? Well, this is right up Flavia's alley. Having solved a murder just last year, she is quite happy to assist Inspector Hewitt with the investigation. Inspector Hewitt isn't quite as thrilled. "There, like a doll in a box, lay Rupert. Was I frightened out of my wits? I'm afraid not. Since the day I had found a body in the kitchen garden at Buckshaw, I had developed a fascination with death, with a particular emphasis on the chemistry of putrefaction." Flavia is uncannily clever - indeed, her hobby is working in the old chemistry lab in the rambling mansion she shares with her absent minded father and two sisters. Her speciality is poisons. The 'war' between the sisters is always entertaining. The mystery is quite interesting and well plotted, but it is the character developments that are the stars of this book. Every quirky village character is well drawn and I immediately established a picture of them as I read. But for me, it is Flavia that makes this series such a hit. Her curiosity, her keen observations, her disarming view of life utterly enchant me. "Hullo! I shouted. It's always best to announce one's self heartily when trespassing. (Even though I had invented it on the spot, this seemed to be a good general rule)." Flavia's Father - "You are unreliable, Flavia, " he said. "Utterly unreliable." Flavia's response - not verbalized- " Of course I was! It was one of the things I loved most about myself." What's not to love? Flavia is a thoroughly enchanting protagonist. I've always loved mysteries, especially when I was younger. I devoured the entire Nancy Drew series and always imagined myself solving mysteries along with them. I'm older now, but having just as much fun seeing the world through Flavia's eyes and helping to solve the mystery. Flavia has a fan club - and of course I'm a member. Alan Bradley is working on the next book in The Buckshaw Chronicles titled A Red Herring Without Mustard. Sigh - it's a long time til next year....
Flavia de Luce is back!Flavia is a precocious little girl whose passions are chemistry and... mystery solving. In this second installement, she meets a puppeeter who may have more secrets than tricks in his bag. His visit to town brings joy to all the children, small and tall, but also wakes up the sad memories of the death by hanging of a local boy.I love Flavia! She's smart, curious and have great observation skills. And is still having problems with her big sisters. This second novel in the series is a little different from the first in that the murder does not happen for some time and so we know more of the victim when he dies. It was also interesting to meet more of Flavia's neighbors.I read the first in the series a few months back because the title intrigued me and was really excited when I won this title on Early Reviewers. And my excitement was not for nothing. This second installement is as fun as was the first and I cannot wait for my next meeting with Flavia and company. I warmly recommend this series.
It is a delight to visit with Flavia de Luce again, listen to her rhapsodize so poetically about chemistry, meet the interesting people in the little village of Bishop's Lacey, sympathize with her sisterly conflicts. Flavia, at 10, going on 11, is simply a delight of a character and to have her solving murder to boot is just icing on the cake. Alan Bradley's writing is a joy, he draws the reader in from the very first. I'm so glad this is going to be a long series, I think at least 6 books? Lots more to look forward to. Hurrah!
I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie a few years ago and I was immediately captivated by Flavia de Luce. The youngest of three sisters who live in England just after the war, Flavia is intelligent and curious. Her mother is dead and her father spends most of his time with his stamp collection. Her two older sisters, like siblings everywhere, torment Flavia with tales that she is adopted or else they ignore her. So Flavia has lots of time to work in her chemistry laboratory and go biking around the countryside. If she encounters a mystery as she does so all the better.This book starts in the St. Tancred's Church graveyard where Flavia is imagining her funeral. She then hears someone crying and goes to investigate. She discovers Nialla, assistant to Rupert Porson, who operates a travelling puppet show. The van they are travelling in has broken down just outside the church. Thus begins the tale that involves murder, death by mysterious circumstances, a grieving mother, a mad homeless woman, the BBC and, of course, the de Luces. Flavia is one up on the local police inspector all the way but it's all part of her day.I can hardly wait to read the next book in the series, A Red Herring without Mustard.
The second novel in the Flavia de Luce series, it possesses all of the wit and strong narrative of the first. Though the voice of Flavia in no way resembles that of an 11 year-old girl, the story remains entertaining.
I liked this book. In fact, I really liked it. Flavia De Luce, the main character and narrator is like a child-genius mini-Miss Marple. The story is quirky with plenty of slightly odd characters, the oddest probably being Flavia herself. Alan Bradley has very cleverly captured the child-like qualities in what might otherwise have been a somewhat less than believable character ¿ an 11 year old girl in the 1950s with a penchant for chemistry, especially poisons and a brain way beyond her years ¿ yet some of her thought processes, actions and reactions remind us that she is still only a child.The only downside, and this is purely my own opinion, was that I was left feeling a little deflated by a slightly disappointing outcome. I think there was plenty of room and opportunity for a few more twists and turns and emerging secrets. Overall, however, I thought this was a delightful tale with lots of interesting (though frankly way above my head) information about chemistry and elements of history which are woven cleverly into the body of the plot. I shall be looking out for more Alan Bradley and especially the adorable Flavia De Luce.
I sat down to read "The weed that strings the hangman¿s bag" and to be perfectly honest I expected the same old over published drivel. I certainly didn¿t expect to enjoy it, but as with any book I start reading I continue on to the end. My head was filled with doubts, how can I have an interest in an expert chemist in the 1950's let alone a pre pubescent girl who solves mysteries? It all seemed very unbelievable. How wrong I was.Alan Bradley has an amazing skill and considerable zest, he projected Flavia De Luce into my thoughts it was almost as though she was in my sitting room and I was watching this whole mystery played for me unravelling in front of my eyes I found myself laughing out loud to her wicked sense of humour and conspiring with her in her uncle¿s laboratory against her evil sisters feely and daffy. Her manipulation skills are incredible especially to the unsuspecting people of Buckshaw and much of the time to her "anything for a quiet life¿ father.This is the second book in the De Luce series so far and it is by no means of inferior quality than the first "the sweetness in the bottom of the pie". This is a nice flowing story there is no hard work to get past "reading blocks" as there are none. its written perfectly and is extremely descriptive, it begins as Flavia is at the cemetery describing her own funeral this may sound depressing but I assure you it is far from it, she hears a woman crying in the cemetery as she has an acute sense of hearing. a BBC puppeteer breaks down in the middle of Buckshaw and in order to pay his mechanic fees he hosts a show of jack and the beanstalk in the local church hall which raised many question as to why his puppet looked like the young boy who was found hanging five years before in the woods, why does mad meg seem to recognise him too? Suddenly a death which is obviously suspicious but they are no match for little Flavia nor are the police.I would not like to be on the wrong side of Flavia by no means although I do find the loneliness surrounding her to be rather useful it suits her and she suits herself.the characters are all very real I personally love the over imposing aunt and mad meg is very believable I would like to see these characters developed more in future books but I am more then anxious to get my hands on a copy of the third book in this series ¿A red herring without mustard¿
The weed that strings the hangman's bag by Alan Bradley.Set in rural England in 1950 The weed that strings the hangman's bag by Alan Bradley very deliberately recreates the feel of classic English detective fiction but with a modern twist. The heroine and 'detective' is Flavia de Luce a precocious eleven year old girl with a passion for poisons and chemicals of all sorts. Flavia is never surprised by anything with a scientific foundation. Everything from pregnancy to cannabis is dealt with in an unshocked and logical manner, which at times is a little hard to totally believe in. Even though Flavia's family is unconventional she can't be immune from the social norms of her class and time. However, when it comes to matters of emotion she becomes an endearing and very believable child again. Flavia's mother is dead and her father pre-occupied with stamp collecting. Her two older sisters Daffy and Feely find their refuge in books and tease Flavia quite cruelly that she is adopted or that their mother rejected her. Chemistry is at once her own refuge and her means of revenge for these taunts. The village of Bishop's Lacey is the archetypal English village of vintage detective fiction with its cast of odd characters and people with a past. These flit on and off the stage playing their appointed parts in giving clues and background. Their virtue in this book is that Alan Bradley makes them relevant to us 60 years distant from their setting in a way that the original books of the genre can't. The centrepiece of the book is a puppet show; another thing now vanished from our calendar of modern entertainments. The master puppeteer crashes to the floor in the middle of the performance and Flavia, in the audience, is quick to realise that it is no accident. The rest of the book is, as you would expect, devoted to the solving of the mystery with Flavia rendering the 'real' police investigation basically irrelevant. There is a fine line, for a mystery writer, between giving too much away and making the plot so convoluted as to be meaningless. Mr Bradley straddles this divide with confidence and credibility. The outcome is satisfying for the attentive reader and here too we have a modern twist to the vintage tale in the technical abilities of the murderer and how they were acquired. It's hard to portray this to the reader of this review without divulging the murderer's identity. I enjoyed the symmetry of murderer and sleuth as technical experts unusual for their time and society. This is the second book in the Flavia series and I have not read the first ¿ The sweetness at the bottom of the pie. In The weed that strings the hangman's bag Flavia comes to us a well-developed character with a history and personality. Her extended family and their retainers are also interesting and the author has a good ear for dialogue and speech patterns. There is plenty of scope for everyone to develop in further novels and as long as the author keeps the omniscient side of Flavia's personality in check she will remain an endearing mix of intuition and logic, worldliness and innocence.
Having been utterly charmed by Flavia de Luce in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, I was somewhat surprised when I came across others who hadn't been as delighted as I. This questioning led me to delay my purchase of The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag... or perhaps it was that I felt offended when the publisher made the poor decision to change the binding for the hardcover publication. (I had adored that small hardcover without a jacket of the first book and was quite put out when the switch to a more traditional hardcover with jacket was made to the second. Amusingly enough, they seem to have realized the error and the third book, A Red Herring Without Mustard was published in the original style.) That said, when I noticed the paperback was available, I decided I had gone too long without a dose of Flavia... and The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag brings back all the delight of Flavia and her fantastic intelligence as she assists on another murder in her small hamlet of Bishop's Lacey.While Flavia does not immediately stumble upon a body in the garden this time, there is certainly murder in the air... though this time, it comes on the heels of a puppet show. The van of a famous puppeteer has broken down and there's certainly a tangled story within these displays. The puppeteer ends up dead and Flavia is the first to figure out that he's not such a stranger to this community after all. The story touches upon the perspective of a German-in-England prisoner of war, the presence of cannabis in post-war England, the art of puppetry and stagecraft, and the usual mix of strange and unusual concoctions in Flavia's laboratory -- including the many ways one can not-quite-lethally poison a terrible older sister.I still think this is a fabulous series that can be read by teen girls (or boys, for that matter) who are scientifically/chemically inclined. Perhaps it's best if they don't have siblings, though, as Daffy and Feely reach new lows as they torment Flavia... and we all know that Flavia is never one to drop the subject without retaliation. Flavia's at her best when dealing with her sisters -- her tone as she deduces critical plot points can certainly get a bit too mature at times, but I accept this as a more than adequate trade for the delight of her other moments as she tries to unravel the secrets in her own home and lovingly sets to work amidst her flasks and beakers. In this book, a dreaded aunt appears to provide some interesting perspective on their family, though Flavia might simply wind up with more questions than ever on that front.So to heck with everyone who disliked the first Flavia. I'm still as much a fan of the second mystery as I was the first -- and I thought settling back in to Flavia's world was a delight. There's a very recognizable narratorial voice here and from page one, I had a smile on my face as I was immediately brought back to the world of Bishop's Lacy and its environs. So if you liked The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, I think you'll find The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag to be jolly good fun -- and for those who have yet to experience Flavia, I think you're in for a real treat. And not like the kind Flavia has doctored up for Feely.
The Weed that Strings the Hangman's bag is a entertaining detective story which grips the readers attention from the very first line. Full of gentle humour, and children being smarter than adults, it is an engaging story full of twists and turns right through to the end. Set in the 1950s the author has created a vivid sense of village life at the time with a cast of memorable characters, all seen through the eyes of Flavia de Luce, a charming and precocious eleven year with a morbid interest in death and a fascination with chemistry, especially when it comes to creating poisons. It appears only natural to her (and to the reader) that when a dead body appears she is the one who should be investigating it. The mystery moves along at a decent pace and held my interest all the way through. Although it was the second book in the series I haven't yet read the first, but this didn't prove a problem as it stands alone well. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes their detectives quirky and charming, and obsessed with poisons.
Bradley is too concerned with the female mind. Flavia attributes far too much in the story to some inherent mental gender. It's distracting and out of character. Otherwise, I was delighted to accompany young Flavia on another adventure.
Book 2 of the Flavia De Luce mysteries. Another entertaining romp thru "Bishop's Lacey & Environs" with a clever 11 y/o sleuth who has no trouble wiggling out of the trouble she is always finding. With a cast of colorful characters, two deaths, and a plethora of clues we hop on Gladys to solve a cold case and a startling new murder along with Flavia.I did think the first book was a bit better. I will definitely read the next book since it is still good fun :)
I really enjoyed this book in the Flavia deLuce series. The story was totally different from the first with the same great characters from the first book and new ones as well. I think Flavia is great! I will continue to read all of the books in the series.
Here's the second book in Bradley's wonderful Flavia de Luce series. In this outing, a famous puppeteer and his companion end up in Bishop's Lacey for two performances of Jack and the Beanstalk to be held at the local church. Flavia is in the thick of things from the beginning, helping them to set up, find a place to camp, etc. while their broken van is fixed. When the standard death occurs, people talk to an almost eleven-year-old, telling her things they would not think of bothering to discuss with the police. This book has a lot of delicious twists and turns in its plot and is just plain fun to read. Flavia is a treasure!
One of his best. Great dynamic going on behind the scenes of this intriguing murder mystery. Nice to find a logical plot among the sea of plotless wonders out there.