Thursday, July 30, 2015

Book Review: The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (Flavia DeLuce #2)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, second half
Cons: Plot in first half is very slow
The Bottom Line:
Flavia is back
Plot needed better pacing
Characters still strong

The First Half Strings Us along a Bit Too Much

I’m trying to rotate through four series on audio, and July brought me back to Flavia DeLuce.  I enjoyed her first mystery a few months back, and was looking forward to visiting her again in The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag.  Sadly, the first half just took too long to get started.  Once the mystery finally got started, the book did take off, however.

If you haven’t meant Flavia, she is an 11-year-old living in the small town of Bishop’s Lacey in England in 1950.  Oh, and she has a fascination with chemistry, poison, and death.  These were only heightened by a murder she found herself involved in and solving just a couple of weeks before this book opens.

That opening finds Flavia sitting in the cemetery.  Her thoughts are interrupted by a woman crying.  The woman is Nialla, the assistant to famous puppeteer Rupert Porson.  They are on a nationwide tour performing his amazing version of Jack and the Beanstalk, but their van has broken down.  While they await the repairs, and to earn some money to pay for those repairs, they agree to do two performances in the village, and Flavia finds herself helping them set up.

However, before the performances are over, someone is dead.  Flavia and her family witness the deed, and Flavia immediately begins to investigate.  Will she once again find the killer?

As I hinted at earlier, that murder doesn’t take place until almost the half-way point.  Yes, some of what happens before that is important to the solution of the case, however, the tension just isn’t there.  It’s more a series of events that we just don’t care about for far too long, and I was a little bored at times.  Honestly, some of these revelations could have been worked into the story after the murder takes place so we care about what we are learning.  It would have made the book stronger.

Once that second half hits, the pace definitely does pick up, and I began to enjoy it much more.  The climax is not as suspenseful as the first book, but it is gripping in other ways and very well done.

The characters are still absolutely wonderful.  Well, Flavia’s older sisters are truly horrible to her, but then again, Flavia isn’t a saint to them by any means either.  We meet quite a few new characters in this book, and they all come across as real.  These characters are the true strength of the book.

Flavia is not your typical 11-year-old, and her observations, especially in the first person narration, are often funny.  This isn’t a humorous novel overall, but you will find lines that will make you smile if not laugh.

Once again, the audio book was narrated by Jayne Entwistle.  I can’t imagine anyone better suited to read this story for us.  Her voice perfectly captures Flavia’s age, spunk, and personality.  Even if I were to read a book in the series, I’d still hear her voice narrating it in my head.  But I seriously doubt I’d pick up an actual copy of the book since I’d miss Jayne’s narration too much.

And yes, I do intend to continue the series.  While The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag could have been paced better, I’m still curious what happens next to Flavia.

Find out what happens next with the Flavia de Luce mysteries in order.


  1. I listened to the first book in this series and enjoyed it but absolutely fell in love with Jayne Entwistle's voice. I'm glad that she seems to be narrating the rest of the series. This is top of my list once school starts and I'm able to listen to audio books again.

    1. Usually, when they pick a narrator for one book, that same person does the rest of the series. I'm certainly glad in that case because Jayne really makes Flavia come alive.

  2. I actually enjoyed this outing more than the first book! I'm surprised you only gave it a 3 star. I mean, yes-the murder happened fairly late, but what went before was interesting. I only complain when the primarily sounds like filler

    I REALLY hate how Flavia holds that no tell policy. Her sisters were horrid to her and she needs to tell her dad. (But then again, Flavia needs some discipline from him as well)

    1. I got bored with what went before the murder. To each his own, I guess.


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