Book Reviews

Book Review; “The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag” by Alan Bradley, copyright 2010

The second book in the Flavia de Luce series. Flavia an eleven-year-old English girl lives at a country estate just outside the Village of Bishop’s Lacey. Her adventurous Mother was killed in a mountain climbing accident shortly after her birth. Set in 1950, Flavia’s Mother has been gone for almost 10 years, World War II is still a fresh memory, and new technology is slowly arriving into the country side. The de Luce family is being forced to change with the time, and like all change, sometimes it is difficult to adapt.Image

Author Alan Bradley won almost every award that was available with his first Flavia novel, and now has continued with her detective story. The settings for Bradley’s novels remind me of the typical or “old time” mystery, almost like the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. The story has a lot of British slang and vocabulary. An example of Flavia’s quotes as she is able to escape helping her rather stuffy spinster Aunt Felicity. “Paint me with Polka Dots! I was free.” I have since used this quote a couple of times to see if anybody is listening to me. Just some curious looks is all the response I’ve garnered.

As I’ve stated in the review of the first novel, I thought the story could be used as young adult read, however, it does contain some adult situations and mild drug use. But nothing the average American teenager is not bombarded with everyday either at school or on television.

I have found in both Flavia novels the young heroin is tormented and bullied by her older sisters. Flavia’s father, a throw over from an older British families, has no idea of how to be a parent. The only attention that any of the girls receive is if one is in some kind of trouble. This means Flavia, the others siblings are older and have pretty much combined to make Flavia’s home life terrible. The Father’s idea of quality time is either a lecture on some subject or listening to a symphony broadcast on the BBC. Flavia does receive some unexpected support from her spinster aunt when she is told that Flavia looks and acts just like her mother did at the same age. This could help when the older sisters are telling her that she is adopted and wasn’t wanted but the home for unwed mothers wouldn’t take her back. Flavia’s support comes from the hired man that basically runs the estate. A veteran of WWII with mental scars that leave him debilitated and only with Flavia’s help can he come back to reality.

I enjoyed the book and love the vocabulary and her characters quotes. It reminds me of the kinds of mysteries that I was familiar with while a lot younger. I did think the book drug somewhat in the last third and was ready for Flavia to wrap it up and explain to the Village detectives how and why the crimes were committed.

Next up, “Maelstrom” by Taylor Anderson copyright 2010. The third in Anderson’s “Destroyermen” series.

Until next time, this winter has been the harshest we have had here in Western Michigan in quite a while. I don’t remember the banks ever being this high or the temperature remaining as cold as it has, ever. Maybe it’s good that we’ve decided to remain here this winter, because if I went someplace warm and came back to this snow I don’t think I would be able to accept it as well as I am. Glad we have books and technology to keep us from going nuts. Although I do miss the sun.


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