Friday, January 15, 2010

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag-Alan Bradley

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
Alan Bradley
Delacorte, Mar 9 2010, $24.00
ISBN: 9780385342315

In 1950 in Bishop’s Lacy, England, eleven year old (well almost eleven but at her age who quibbles except her siblings) Flavia de Luce assumes her sleuthing career after solving the Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is over. Still she figures there is no harm in expanding her knowledge of poisoning through her experiments; she understands she just has to hide her endeavor from her nosy big sisters Ophelia and Daphne.

However, while musing in dream land over her death funeral, she hears weeping. Awakened by the sounds of crying, Flavia meets Mother Goose who is actually Nialla the actress playing the part n Rupert Porson's puppet show, but their vehicle has broken down while on tour. Vicar Canon Richardson offers them lodging at Inglebys’s Culverhouse Farm while their van is repaired. Thankful for the kindness Rupert offers to repay them by putting on a puppet production of "Jack and the Beanstalk" at St. Tancred's parish. Jack the puppet looks eerily like Robin Inglebys who died five years ago in what the police called a misadventure. Now it is Rupert who dies in another misadventure. Inspector Hewitt lets his tweener amateur sleuth make her inquiries as Flavia solved his previous homicide for him.

The eccentric cast especially her obsessed philatelist father, her two sisters, the inspector, and Rupert’s assistant enhance a great whodunit in which Flavia is the weirdest of them all especially in her lab as she holds the story line together. For instance her doctoring her sister’s chocolate is a timeless prank that will have readers laughing and wondering if Ophelia and Daphne are correct about her heritage. The investigation is clever and fun to follow, but it is the escapdes of refreshing fabulous Flavia who makes The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag into an enjoyable historical whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

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