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

( 169 )

Overview

"From bestselling author Alan Bradley comes this mystery starring one of fiction's most remarkable sleuths: Flavia de Luce, a dangerously brilliant eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders. This time, Flavia finds herself untangling two deaths - separated by time but linked by the unlikeliest of threads." "Flavia thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop's Lacy are over - and then Rupert Porson has an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. The beloved puppeteer has had his ...

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

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Overview

"From bestselling author Alan Bradley comes this mystery starring one of fiction's most remarkable sleuths: Flavia de Luce, a dangerously brilliant eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders. This time, Flavia finds herself untangling two deaths - separated by time but linked by the unlikeliest of threads." "Flavia thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop's Lacy are over - and then Rupert Porson has an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. The beloved puppeteer has had his own strings sizzled, but who'd do such a thing and why? For Flavia, the questions are intriguing enough to make her put aside her chemistry experiments and schemes of vengeance against her insufferable big sisters. Astride Gladys, her trusty bicycle, Flavia sets out from the de Luces' crumbling family mansion in search of Bishop's Lacey's deadliest secrets." Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she's letting on? What of the vicar's odd ministrations to the catatonic woman in the dovecote? Then there's a German pilot obsessed with the Bronte sisters, a reproachful spinster aunt, and even a box of poisoned chocolates. Most troubling of all is Porson's assistant, the charming but erratic Nialla. 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

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.
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

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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: 96,877
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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
( 169 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(79)

4 Star

(60)

3 Star

(24)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 169 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.

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  • 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

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    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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