Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Book Review: The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: March 2010
ISBN: 9780385343459
Source: Library

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Novel 

Flavia de Luce is at it again.  This time, when a famous puppeteer and his assistant end up in Bishop's Lacey, she befriends the odd pair.  Rupert is a short but charismatic fellow with a limp and Nialla is his beaten down assistant.  When a tragedy strikes, Flavia is compelled to find out who could have wanted the person dead and how that death relates to one five years ago.  What she finds leads her to some strange and complex discoveries that might put her in danger.

Things I Liked:
I still simply adore Flavia.  Her spunky and still quite innocent take on things is so refreshing that I plowed right through this book.  I especially love the ongoing battle she has with her older sisters - her plotting and planning are so entertaining.  The many odd and ridiculous characters Bradley creates just bring the book to life - a menagerie of strange people seem to populate Bishop's Lacey - but they make for lively and interesting characters.  The story is also quite intriguing with lots of clues, but I still had absolutely no idea what the ending would be or who dunnit (which could be from my inexperience with mysteries).  So entertaining and fun.  Favorite parts:

It was after all Cynthia, with her rodent features, who had once caught me teetering tiptoe on the altar of St. Tancred's, using one of Father's straight razors to scrape a sample of blue zafre from a medieval stained-glass window...I was simply dying to analyze the stuff in my laboratory to determine how successful its makers had been in the essential step of freeing it of iron.  Cynthia had seized me, upended me, and spanked me on the spot, making what I thought to be an unfair use of a nearby copy of Hymns Ancient and Modern (Standard Edition). p 31
Eleven-year-olds are supposed to be unreliable.  We're past the age of being poppets: the age where people bend over and poke us in the tum with their fingers and make idiotic noises that sound like "boof-boof" - just the thought of which is enough to make me bring up my Bovril.  And yet we're still not at the age where anyone ever mistakes us for a grown-up.  The fact is, we're invisible - except when we choose not to be. p 112
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever," the poet Keats had once written - or so Daffy had told me.  There couldn't be a shred of doubt that Keats had written the line while contemplating a Kipp's apparatus: a device used to extract the gas resulting from a chemical reaction. p 173
Things I Didn't Like:
I was more bothered by Flavia's occasional chemistry explanations this time around.  Sometimes they would be so technical and boring that I'd skip them (and I usually like a bit of science in my stories).  Still, they are never too long and easily skimmed or skipped if desired.  It didn't much detract from my overall enjoyment of the story and of Flavia.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

s-factor: !
maybe one or two

mrg-factor: X
a bit implied

v-factor: ->->
there is, after all, a murder

Overall rating: *****

What do you think of adult books with child protagonists? Why do you think writers use them for adult books and not just write a kids book?

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