The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (Flavia de Luce Series #2)

( 168 )

Overview

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 ...

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The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (Flavia de Luce Series #2)

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Overview

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?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“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

Publishers Weekly
Bradley’s endlessly entertaining follow-up to 2009’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie finds precocious 11-year-old Flavia de Luce once again indulging her curiosity about corpses. Wandering near her threadbare ancestral home in early 1950s England, Flavia bumps into famed TV puppeteer Rupert Porson and his pregnant wife, who have been marooned by an ailing van. While they wait for repairs to be completed, they agree to put on a performance for the village of Bishop’s Lacey—but Rupert’s sudden death ends the show. Feigning an innocence entirely at odds with her shrewdness about adult doings, Flavia uses her skills in chemistry and questioning to puzzle out which of the many possible suspects murdered Rupert and why. The author deftly evokes the period, but Flavia’s sparkling narration is the mystery’s chief delight. Comic and irreverent, this entry is sure to build further momentum for the series. (Mar.)
Library Journal
When our heroine, conducting a mock funeral for herself in the village churchyard, encounters a weeping red-headed woman, the 11-year-old's precocious wit and sympathy immediately charm the tearful Nialla: "I like you, Flavia de Luce." The many readers who made Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie a best seller will concur, and newcomers, too, will fall under Flavia's spell in this second sleuthing adventure. Nialla is the assistant to master puppeteer Rupert Porson, whose van has broken down in the English hamlet of Bishop's Lacey. When he is fatally electrocuted during a performance, Nialla becomes a suspect in his murder. Putting aside her chemistry experiments and poisoning plots against her tormenting older sisters, Flavia sets out on her trusty bike, Gladys, to investigate. VERDICT While the plot at times stretches credulity, with some characters veering close to Agatha Christie stereotypes, Flavia is such an entertaining narrator that most readers will cheerfully go along for the ride. Sure to appeal to Anglophiles and mystery fans nostalgic for the genre's Golden Age. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 11/1/09; see Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/09; library marketing; available as an ebook and unabridged CD.]—Wilda Williams, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
Almost 11 and keen on poisons, Flavia de Luce gets a second chance to broaden her lethal knowledge. Roused from a detailed fantasy of her own funeral by a nosy jackdaw and the sound of a woman weeping, Flavia encounters Mother Goose-or so the pretty redhead introduces herself. Actually Nialla only plays the role in Rupert Porson's puppet show, currently bogged down with van trouble. The vicar of Bishop's Lacey suggests a mechanic and puts the puppeteer and his assistant up with the Inglebys at Culverhouse Farm. Rupert will repay the help by staging his production of "Jack and the Beanstalk" at St. Tancred's parish hall. Oddly, although Rupert claims never to have met the Inglebys before, his Jack puppet bears the face of their son Robin, deceased five years ago in what a 1945 inquest termed misadventure. Inspector Hewitt, whose first acquaintance with Flavia (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, 2009) solved a murder, must wait patiently once more while Flavia chats up the neighbors, breaks into the library, researches the past, washes down scones, horehound candies and cucumber sandwiches with tea, and sabotages a box of chocolates meant for one of her tormenting sisters. A gloriously eccentric cast of characters, from Flavia's dad, whose stamp collection is bankrupting the ancestral digs, to her sisters Ophelia and Daphne, who tell Flavia she was a foundling. There's not a reader alive who wouldn't want to watch Flavia in her lab concocting some nefarious brew.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385343459
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/8/2011
  • Series: Flavia de Luce Series , #2
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 69,465
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Bradley received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, as well as the first Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children’s Literature. He is the author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. Bradley lives in Malta with his wife and two calculating cats, and is currently working on the next Flavia de Luce mystery, A Red Herring Without Mustard.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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.

Nothing.

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.

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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?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 168 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(79)

4 Star

(59)

3 Star

(24)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 168 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not quite as good as the first one

    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!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 30, 2010

    Fun

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2010

    Disappointed

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2013

    Better than the first! Flavia is just as charming as in Sweet

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    lovely, funny book!

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Delightful!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2014

    Brilliant, cheeky, and adorable all at once, Flavia once again g

    Brilliant, cheeky, and adorable all at once, Flavia once again gets the job done almost before the local inspector gets a chance to start. Not his fault though. The bored 11-yr-old scamp can slip freely into places the police cannot and bluntly ask questions an adult wouldn't dare. I went through this one like a newly sharpened pen knife through a cucumber.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

    A wonderful series.

    This is one of the best series of books I've read in a long while. Flavia de Luce is such a remarkable little girl, and I love seeing the world from her viewpoint.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2013

    A very enjoyable series.  Flavia's personality is captivating.  

    A very enjoyable series.  Flavia's personality is captivating.  From the beginning you are drawn into the story and hooked!  

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  • Posted December 11, 2012

    Just OK

    Flavia deLuce is back again, a precocious 11-year-old who is alternately queen of her universe and tormented little sister. In The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, she befriends a famous puppeteer and his assistant when their vehicle breaks down in Bishop's Lacey. But while he's putting on a show to help repay the kindness afforded him, he dies front a center during the performance. An accident? Flavia doesn't think so. Her superior brainpower awes and annoys the local police. During Flavia's investigation, she also learns the story of a local tragedy some years back that may just fit in with the current crime. I thought the first book in this series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, was charming, funny and altogether wonderful. The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag was OK. The magic that imbued every page of the earlier book was absent for the most part. Both the story and the narrator (Flavia) were stretched and pulled to try to recreate Sweetness, but I thought the effort fell short. It could be "sophomore slump" for the author, and I will definitely give the next book in the series a read.

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  • Posted September 17, 2012

    I don't understand my fascination with this series. Have read t

    I don't understand my fascination with this series. Have read them all, but find myself annoyed at the protagonist. Flavia is "over-the-top" and it is too hard to believe her precociousness. Regardless, I've yet to pass by each release.

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  • Posted June 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Flavia de Luce, an eleven-year-old with a near-genius mind, app


    Flavia de Luce, an eleven-year-old with a near-genius mind, apparently has way too much time, and too much curiosity, for a child who is benignly neglected by her father and ignored, at best, by her disdainful and tormenting older sisters. When we first encounter her in The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, she is prostrate in the Bishop’s Lacey village churchyard, imagining her own funeral in all its glory, but is distracted by the sound of a crying woman. The woman is Nialla, assistant to a nationally known puppeteer, Rupert Porson, and their van has broken down in the village.

    While their van is being repaired, Rupert and Nialla find temporary quarters with a local family and Rupert agrees to put on a show of “Jack and the Beanstalk” for the village. Rupert claims to have never met the host family before but one of his puppets bears an uncanny resemblance to the family’s child who died in mysterious circumstances several years earlier. Later, Rupert is killed in a questionable way and Flavia begins to wonder if the two deaths are connected. Abandoning her current chemical experiments, including the dastardly poisoning of a box of chocolates intended for her sister, she and her trusty bicycle, Gladys, are off on the hunt. (One of the funniest scenes in the book takes place when Flavia must retrieve the chocolates before the wrong person eats them.)

    Canadian author Alan Bradley is a mystery in himself—how does a middle-aged man do so well at evoking the charm and ferocious brilliance of this young girl? The first book won quite a few awards and this second entry in the series is no slouch itself. I only wish we didn’t have to wait so long for the next one, A Red Herring Without Mustard, due in March 2011.

    Flavia de Luce is my favorite sleuth these days, hands down. When I first met her last year in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, I thought the author had created a wonderful character, one who could appeal to nearly all types of mystery readers, not to mention non-mystery readers who just like a really good story. Throw in a large dash of humor and you’ve got a winner. Best of all, Flavia is a terrific introduction to mysteries for the younger reader and, as a bonus, they can learn a little about post-World War II England. This one’s in my Top Five for 2010.

    Much of my reading is by way of audio editions and I’ve become downright picky about the narrators. This is the second of three I’ve listened to that’s read by Jayne Entwistle and I wish she had more. In both of the Flavia books, Ms. Entwistle IS Flavia and I really can’t imagine any other voice for her . An already wonderful book is made even more delightful by the right narrator and, in this case, Jayne Entwistle is it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2014

    Another winner!

    Just adore Flavia and her sleuthful ways.

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  • Posted February 21, 2012

    Highly recommended

    Loved it. Is appropriate for all ages from 12 and up. Bought all 4 for my granddaughter's 12th birthdday.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2011

    Amazing

    I absolutedly LOVED the first book.

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  • Posted October 3, 2011

    Not as good as the first

    But I am going to overlook the sophomore slump and read the next one anyway. Flavia is worth it.

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  • Posted June 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Loved it!

    A highly entertaining addition to the series. Flavia is back in full force and remains the most hilarious sleuth out there. Bravo Flavia!

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  • Posted June 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An amalgamation of Pippi Longstockings and the best of all teen detectives!

    Flavia reminds me of an amalgamation of Pippi Longstockings and the best of all teen detectives! I wish these books had been out when I was in high school because Flavia makes chemistry interesting!

    Flavia is Precocious, humorous and a Genius a somewhat scary genius at times but one none the less. I saw an interview on Library Thing with Alan Bradley where he was asked how he imagines Flavia as an adult and he said either the world's greatest Chemist or the World's Greatest Criminal Poisoner and I have to agree with him there!

    Flavia is believable because people tell her things without even realizing they have done so because she is a child they let their guard down.


    This was a great story, it kept me guessing and I didn't figure it out till Flavia did so that's a great mystery!

    I can't wait for the next installment in this series!
    4 ½ Stars

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  • Posted May 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Alan Bradley has created a character for the ages in Flavia de Luce

    In this second installment of the Flavia de Luce series, "The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag" charms and delights with a delicious mystery surrounding the strangers who arrive in Bishop's Lacey. Rupert Porson is a famous puppeteer breaking ground on BBC television. His beautiful assistant, Nialla, is mysterious and all-to-obviously pregnant. When Porson ends up dead on the stage of his own show, the whole town seems to be a witness to an impossible murder. Does it have anything to do with the death of a six-year-old child from 5 years before? Only eleven-year-old Flavia will be able to piece the clues together and discover the truth.

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  • Posted May 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Even better...

    I thought this second installment of Flavia's adventures was even better than the first. I don't usually read adult fiction or mystery but have been drawn to this series because I was intrigued by the main character Flavia, being an 11 yr. old detective. This second book seemed to hook me in more and make me want to know "whodunit". I love that Flavia, being as intelligent as she is in the world of murder and chemistry, that she is also still a vulnerable 11 yr. old. when it comes to her sisters and father who are all fun characters as well. I look forward to another installment of Flavia's adventures.

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