Follow by Email

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

Some years ago I read the first in the Flavia de Leuce series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and it's taken me this long to get to the second in the series, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, by Alan Bradley.

As with the first novel, our heroine is Flavia, a precocious eleven-year-old who has passions for chemistry and death (she'd like to write the definitive book on decomposition). As the book opens, she's lying in a cemetery, imagining her own funeral (she's viciously teased by her older sisters, who tell her she was adopted).

Flavia stumbles upon a broken down van, owned by a traveling puppet show. They are impressed to give a show in the local church, and somebody ends up dead. The police, specifically Inspector Hewitt, are on the case, but so is Flavia, and she outsmarts everybody.

As with the first book, there's a lot of English whimsy going on here. These kind of mysteries are called "cozies," and are marked by a lack of violence (aside from the murders) and a genteel attitude.

However, I was a bit disappointed with this one. Perhaps because Flavia was not a surprise I found her a bit more tedious than the first book, and at times downright annoying. But she does have a great wit: "I have to admit though, that Cynthia was a great organizer, but then, so were the men with whips who got the pyramids built." Or, "The problem with we Luces, I decided, is that we are infested with history in much the same way that other people are infested with lice."

The puppeteer's death intersects with the hanging of a five-year-old boy some years earlier, so this does get grimmer than some of its type. And I find it hard to believe that a grown woman (not a little person) would actually have the same size feet as a five-year-old, which is a central clue to that crime.

I'm not sure I'll read any more in the series. Well, maybe one more to see if Flavia actually grows (will she stay eleven, and will it be 1950, forever?)

No comments:

Post a Comment