The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag

Having been utterly charmed by Flavia de Luce in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, I was somewhat surprised when I came across others who hadn't been as delighted as I. This questioning led me to delay my purchase of The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag... or perhaps it was that I felt offended when the publisher made the poor decision to change the binding for the hardcover publication. (I had adored that small hardcover without a jacket of the first book and was quite put out when the switch to a more traditional hardcover with jacket was made to the second. Amusingly enough, they seem to have realized the error and the third book, A Red Herring Without Mustard was published in the original style.) That said, when I noticed the paperback was available, I decided I had gone too long without a dose of Flavia... and The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag brings back all the delight of Flavia and her fantastic intelligence as she assists on another murder in her small hamlet of Bishop's Lacey.

While Flavia does not immediately stumble upon a body in the garden this time, there is certainly murder in the air... though this time, it comes on the heels of a puppet show. The van of a famous puppeteer has broken down and there's certainly a tangled story within these displays. The puppeteer ends up dead and Flavia is the first to figure out that he's not such a stranger to this community after all. The story touches upon the perspective of a German-in-England prisoner of war, the presence of cannabis in post-war England, the art of puppetry and stagecraft, and the usual mix of strange and unusual concoctions in Flavia's laboratory -- including the many ways one can not-quite-lethally poison a terrible older sister.

I still think this is a fabulous series that can be read by teen girls (or boys, for that matter) who are scientifically/chemically inclined. Perhaps it's best if they don't have siblings, though, as Daffy and Feely reach new lows as they torment Flavia... and we all know that Flavia is never one to drop the subject without retaliation. Flavia's at her best when dealing with her sisters -- her tone as she deduces critical plot points can certainly get a bit too mature at times, but I accept this as a more than adequate trade for the delight of her other moments as she tries to unravel the secrets in her own home and lovingly sets to work amidst her flasks and beakers. In this book, a dreaded aunt appears to provide some interesting perspective on their family, though Flavia might simply wind up with more questions than ever on that front.

So to heck with everyone who disliked the first Flavia. I'm still as much a fan of the second mystery as I was the first -- and I thought settling back in to Flavia's world was a delight. There's a very recognizable narratorial voice here and from page one, I had a smile on my face as I was immediately brought back to the world of Bishop's Lacy and its environs. So if you liked The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, I think you'll find The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag to be jolly good fun -- and for those who have yet to experience Flavia, I think you're in for a real treat. And not like the kind Flavia has doctored up for Feely.

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