Review: The Weed That Strings the Hangman´s Bag

After having to wait much too long (I think I can finally empathize with those desperate Harry Potter fans) for the second installment in Alan Bradley´s Flavia series, I finally got my copy last weekend and practically devoured it. And yes, it´s just as perfect as the first book, if not better (the first book in a series I love is always special to me so the following books can really only be just as good 🙂 ).

Now for the plot: After having successfully solved the murder of the man in the cucumber patch, Flavia does not have to wait long for the next exciting thing to happen. The great puppeteer Rupert Porson comes to Bishop´s Lacey and is persuaded to give a show for the villagers. Unfortunately he has a deadly “rendevous with electricity” and Flavia has a front row seat. There is also the matter of his troubled assisstent Nialla, the unsolved death of a young boy, poisoned chocolates, sleeping pigs, a Bronte-loving pow, television, and Mad Meg.

Doesn´t it sounds fantastic already? Flavia is as precocious and macabre as usual, and again leaves the police stumped. What I loved about The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, among other things, is that we get to know a lot of the villagers better. There is of course Mrs. Mullet and her awful cooking but helpful gossip, the vicar and his wife, musical tearoom ladies, aunt Felicity and Mad Meg. Bradley really brings the village and its inhabitants, which are appropriately eccentric, to life. As the year is 1950 and one of the characters is a German prisoner of war, there is the reference to the war and its influence on people. I think this also helps bring out a great side of Flavia, especially when she runs into Dogger in his episodes.

The mystery is more complex than in the first book, this time I didn´t guess who did it, which is partly due to the connection of the recent murder of the puppeteer and the older death of a young boy. Of course guessing at the solution does not spoil the fun of these books!

So this book is another great favorite which I will no doubt be rereading soon. I actually started rereading the first book because  I didn´t want to leave Flavia´s world. Highly recommended, I don´t think any fan of the first book will not love the second installment just as much. In case you´re new to the Flavia series, it´s a fantastic cozy crime series that starts with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (which I reviewed here).

A few of my favorite passages:

`You wouldn´t happen to have a cigarette, would you? I´m dying for a smoke.´ I gave my head a rather idiotic shake. `Hmmh,´ she said. `You look like the kind of kid who might have.´ For the first time in my life, I was speechless.” (16)

On Beethoven´s The Fifth: “I remembered that the end of the thing, the allegro, was one of those times when Beethoven just couldn´t seem to find the `off´ switch. (. . .) It was like a bit of flypaper stuck to your finger that yo couldn´t shake off. The bloody thing clung to life like a limpet.” (49)

`You are unreliable, Flavia,´ he said. `Utterly unreliable.´ Of course I was! It was one of the things I loved most about myself.” (112)

Much of my life was given over to holding the oven door of the Aga as Mrs. M fed heaps of baking into its open maw. Hell, in Milton´s Paradise Lost, had nothing to compare with my drudgery.” (274)

This book also counts toward Jennifer´s Canadian Authors Challenge 2010.

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20 thoughts on “Review: The Weed That Strings the Hangman´s Bag

  1. I’ve got that whole series on Mount TBR and your gushing reviews have finally convinced me to move them up towards the top of the pile.

    Btw, have I introduced myself to you? I really don’t know. Anyway, I’m Susi and a fairly new blogger. I’ve lurking on your blog for a while now and I had to discover that we have a lot in common. I, too, have an MA in American Studies and am from Germany. Plus, we seem to have the same reading taste. Anyway, it’s really nice to meet you and I love your blog. 🙂

    1. Oh thank you, that´s so flattering! 🙂 Wow, that means you survived the master thesis, I´m really dreading that one. So great to find another German who´s blogging in English, I knew there had to be more.

      Hehe, mount tbr, sounds very appropriate! I hope you´ll fall for the Flavia books, glad my gushing made you move them up. And if you do like them at least you won´t have to wait for the second one.

      Now I´m off to browse your blog!

  2. Nice review! Alan Bradley is becoming a star now 🙂 I loved the quote about Flavia being unreliable. It resonates with me at many levels – sometimes being unreliable is so nice, one doesn’t need to meet anyone’s expectations 🙂

  3. I adored the first book, and am so looking forward to reading this. I have heard a couple of people say negative things about it, so I’m glad that you loved it. I think it comes out in June in Australia, but I may have to succumb and get it from BD before then. 🙂

  4. Great post! I thought it was as perfect as (or a little less perfect than) the first book. I loved it as much, but it was just different (to me) because the mystery doesn’t take up the whole book like in The Sweetness. We also get a lot more about her family. Either way, I want the next book yesterday!

    1. Thanks 🙂 We should petitition Bradley to hurry up! I´m so glad he decided from the onset to make a series out of it 🙂 I liked the structuring of the mystery in this one but it´s really quite different.

      1. I am all for petitioning him to write faster. heh. From the author blurb it appears he is in Malta. I think if he moves back to Canada he would have less distractions and would get more written faster… or at least I would certainly have more distractions in Malta. So I would petition for either faster writing or move back to Canada 😉

        1. Hehe, location location 😀 Very interesting how he can still depict the English countryside so convincingly!
          I already love the title of book 3: A Red Herring without Mustard 🙂

          1. I know! One thing I talked about in my review of book 2 is the titles and how they have are literary references. I wonder, does A Red Herring without Mustard continue that trend? Can’t say that I’ve heard of it before!

            1. I hadn´t actually heard of the other sources of the titles before reading the excerpts in the books. I thought red herring might just be a reference to the literary device of leaving clues 😀 But google helps, apparently it´s from something by Robert Greene 🙂

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