Home > Book, Book Review, Mystery, Reviews > Book Review – The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley

Book Review – The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley

October 25, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Book Description:

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?

About the Author
Alan Bradley has published many children’s stories as well as lifestyle and arts columns in Canadian newspapers. His adult stories have been broadcast on CBC Radio and published in various literary journals. He won the first Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children’s Literature.


I was a fan of Alan Bradley’s debut novel The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and most especially, his 11-year-old heroine Ms Flavia de Luce, so I just had to check out Ms Flavia’s second adventure! In Book #2 The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, the ever-precocious and ever-funny Flavia returns to squirm her way into the police investigation into the suspicious death of a visiting master puppeteer at  Bishop’s Lacey.

The heart of this book is of course Mr Bradley’s unusual heroine – an 11-year-old chemistry prodigy (with a special interest in poisons and a more macabre interest in death) who’s now developed a knack for solving crimes before the police do. I don’t know about you, but I just loved the idea of a pint-sized investigator pedaling furiously on her trusty bicycle Gladys as she went about on her investigations (and Flavia seemed more believable to me as a child for this second installment) 🙂 As an added plus, I found the rest of the cast of characters just as delightful – from Flavia’s eccentric family (including a new character – the intimidating Aunt Felicity who gives us further insight into Flavia’s background) to the interestingly quirky characters who people Bishop’s Lacey (my personal fave is the the family all-around-help Dogger who suffers from PTSD / post-traumatic stress disorder). Flavia doesn’t seem to have any friends her own age, and with her father buried in his stamps and with her sisters as the bane of her existense, it’s Dogger who Flavia usually turns to for help (including a hilarious scene where the innocent Flavia attempts to learn about the seduction scene in Gustave Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovary’ from a discomfited Dogger)

Now admittedly, the pacing of this second book is slow (for example, it takes about a third of the way into the book for the mysterious death to even occur!), but it does pick up after that event with plenty of plot twists and red herrings thrown in. I personally liked the relaxed scenic route Mr Bradley took to set the mystery up, but fans of more fast-paced mysteries may be less than thrilled. But if you enjoy an entertaining old-fashioned mystery that doesn’t dumb itself down for cheap thrills, check this one out!

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley (Dell) is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Hardcover edition, Paperback edition, and Audible Audio Edition.

The eBook is also available at B&N, Apple iBookstore, Kobo books and Sony eBookstore.

For a second opinion – here’s some reviews of The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag by other bloggers:

  • Book Nympho – “if you liked the first book, then chances are you’ll like this one too”
  • Fyrefly’s Book Blog – “Compelling, absorbing, and funny”
  • She Reads Novels – “I love the old-fashioned, innocent feel of this series”

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