Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Puppet Show Turned Crime Scene

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag
The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag is the second book in the Flavia de Luce mystery series.  Once again, I listened to this on audiobook and really enjoyed the experience, though I didn't enjoy this book as much as its predecessor.

The murder doesn't even take place until a third of the way through the book, for one thing, and it was hard to believe that an 11-year-old girl could understand all the affairs and double-dealings that led to it, so much so that she could solve the murder.  But hey, it's a fun read, and Flavia is still a glorious character with whom to spend several hours.

In this outing, Bishop's Lacey is visited by a famous TV personality, Rupert Porson, who has a children's puppet show on the BBC.  He agrees to stage two shows in town with the help of his beautiful assistant Nialla, and Flavia offers to help.  But Rupert is electrocuted during the second performance, and no one knows who did it, though many people appear to have had ample motivation.  Flavia de Luce is on the case, using her cheerful demeanor and innocent, child-like gaze to get real answers to hard questions.

One of the reasons I didn't love this book as much as its predecessor was because many of the characters I enjoyed spending time with in the first outing were in greatly reduced roles here.  For example, the police inspector was such a good person in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  He was a real help to Flavia and seemed likely to become a mentor.  But in this one, he's hardly there at all and even seems to be shown up by Flavia at the end as a sort of bumbling country detective in a very Inspector Lestrade sort of way.  This was very disappointing.  We also see far less of Flavia's father.  This is balanced by meeting many new people around Bishop's Lacey, but, well, nice as they were, I still missed the inspector.

I also was a little disturbed by Flavia's sisters!  Joanna pointed out in the comments of my post on the previous book that she found the sisters to be very mean to each other, and now that I've read this one, I can understand why.  I understand that siblings can be very cruel to each other, and tease endlessly, but to concoct a very elaborate story around Flavia's adoption and how she caused her mother to go into a depression and to continue threatening that Flavia will be sent to some foundling home is really, really horrible!  It hurt to read.  And Flavia retaliates by putting poison in her sister's chocolate.  Someone is going to be very sorry one of these days.

However, even with these caveats, I found the book quite entertaining.  Flavia is a wonderful tour guide to post-war England, not only showing us the decline of the moneyed class, but also sharing tidbits of popular culture and the pros and cons of rural life, all from the seat of her trusty bicycle Gladys.  I look forward to more in this series - at the rate I'm going, I'll be all caught up very quickly!


  1. I finally got around to posting about the third book and the sister thing is getting worse and worse! Thanks for the link, by the way, and also I'm happy that I'm not the only one who found the sisters disturbing.

    I remember that when I read the second book it kind of bugged me that the murder only took place so far into the story.

    But in spite of all this nitpicking, I will also continue reading about Flavia, I love her character too much to just let go!

  2. I am sorry that this one didn't delight you as the others did, but sometimes it seems as though the authors kind of lose focus on what they have created, and start to change things or get sloppy. I still have the first book on my shelf, and I aim to read all of these because you have been enjoying them all, but at least I will know what to expect when I do get around to this one!

  3. I should take a closer look at book 1

  4. Anonymous3/15/2013

    Would the inspector maybe have been left out so that there was more emphasis on Flavia? I'm guessing her age is one of appealing aspects of the book, for the way she'd see things. I like the set-up, reminds me of the programs that were still shown every now and then in the 90s.

  5. These all sort of run together...but I do believe this was my least favorite of the series so far. Don't worry—plenty more of the Inspector coming!


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