I must have lost my mind last week. I read these books in order, but for some reason went ahead and posted the third book before the second. I don’t even know. Oh well. Without further ado, the second book in the Flavia de Luce series:
The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag (Flavia de Luce #2)
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?
I wasn’t sure how Bradley would continue on with Flavia’s story, since the murder in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was so tidily tied up, but he did it and he did it magnificently. I was more than a little surprised when he didn’t immediately open with a dead body, but instead allowed me to get to know the victim for a little while. That being said, I loved that I was allowed that space of time to come to my own conclusions about Rupert Porson and the people who surrounded him. Sure he was kind of horrible in that he clearly beat his travelling companion/mother to his unborn child, but Bradley also gave you glimpses of why Nialla would have been attracted to him in the first place, his showmanship. Having all of this context on the victim made the murder all the more intriguing. It’s brilliantly done.
Flavia is still completely adorable. Her love of chemistry continues unabated and I still maintain that it’s chemistry presented in the most fascinating way possible. Her fascination with poisons is both understandable and completely endearing. That being said, the fact that she can manufacture them is minorly concerning, especially knowing that she’s faced with two older sisters who frequently tell her that she was adopted and that her dead mother tried to give her back, but they wouldn’t take her back. However, although Flavia periodically falls into mildly morose moods, she still remains the same plucky young woman that we left at the end of Sweetness. When she covers for the fact that she was examining a dead body by slowly rising from a crouch, loudly proclaiming “Amen”, elaborately crossing herself, and then dabbing at her eyes, I laughed out loud. She might be sneaky and underhanded, but she’s delightfully sneaky and underhanded in all of the ways that an eleven year old investigating murder should be. I particularly enjoyed the effect she has on the detectives at the end of the novel. I can completely understand it since I was wearing the same look on my face as I was reading it.
I really can’t recommend this book enough. It’s brilliantly written. For a mystery that takes place in the quiet stuffiness of the British countryside, Bradley writes them with a unique balance of humor and urgency. They are exceedingly entertaining.
4.5 ink bottles.
Character Believability: 5 Buffys
Character Investibility: 5 Doctors
Pacing/Tension/Urgency: 4.5 Dresdens
Worldbuilding: 4.5 Snyders
Language: 5 Feegles
Mystery: 4 Sherlocks