Saturday 26 February 2011


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

My edition: Paperback, published in 2010 by Orion Publishing, 384 pages.

Description: A traveling puppet show arrives in the sleeping village of Bishop's Lacey - and a shocking murder takes place. For eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, the crime will test her precocious powers of deduction to the limit - particularly when she discovers that the murder echoes a tragedy which occurred many years before...


The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag is the second title in the Flavia de Luce mystery series but can be read as a stand alone novel as very little knowledge on the previous book is required. With a slow start and light plot perhaps not a novel I would pick up again any time soon, but as author Alan Bradley neatly ties all loose knots and brings the mystery to a predictable but believable conclusion it was by no means a bad read.

Admittedly this book and I did not get off to a good start. First of all, the first several chapters are agonising slow and we do not get to read about the main mystery until about midway through. This would be fine if there was a lot of introductory storytelling necessary but there wasn't. As it is this is the second novel in a series the main protagonist is already established and the additional information mentioned about new characters was spread out too thin and could've easily be condensed down to give the novel a bit more of a kick.

Furthermore I was extremely annoyed by the voice given to main character Flavia de Luce. She's supposed to be a book-smart eleven-year-old but even if she spent every waking hour reading her Great-Uncle Tar's copies of Chemical Abstracts & Transactions and experimenting with poisons that does in no way justify her talking and acting like a middle aged man, as she so often does. Especially when in the next scene she does act like a ordinary eleven-year-old as it completely throws the reader off. This also prevents the character from becoming believable and likeable and since she's telling the story this obviously is a big nuisance throughout the novel.

Having said that, after finally continuing and finishing the novel (weeks after I started it and I don't usually put a book aside for such a long period of time before picking it up again!) I found myself quite content in the end. The main plot never thickens very much, and there is still far too much focus on side characters that matter little, but ignoring those aspects it was a quite enjoyable book to pass my time. Nothing overly spectacular, but not a bad read by any means either.