Tuesday, June 26, 2012

snips and snails and puppeteer's tales

Title: The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
Author: Alan Bradley
bookmark: library receipt

I got a dirty look from my girlfriend when I acknowledged that I might be falling in love with a fictional eleven-year-old girl.  Admittedly, it sounds terrible, but I would like to reiterate that I only want to hang out with young Flavia de Luce, talk science (I could learn so much!!), and trade barbs about her astoundingly horrible sisters.  I have no sinister or untoward intentions, which is good, because she has a habit of pondering how to poison people in various and nefarious ways.

However, in this adventure she finds no clues of poison at the scene when a popular puppeteer is killed during a very public performance in Bishop's Lacey, and must thus investigate through more pedestrian avenues.  She returns to the pit shed where the library stores old newspapers, visits again with Miss Cool, the local postmistress/candy purveyor, and gleans more wisdom from the eminently sympathetic and intriguing Dogger, but we find that Bishop's Lacey has much more to offer.  Aunt Felicity has come to visit, the vicar is hiding something, Flavia seeks intel from a tea room and the undertaker next door, and an unusually artistic madwoman lives in the woods at the edge of town--the woods where an old gibbet sits slowly rotting in a clearing.

Inspector Hewitt and his trusty sergeants are once again on the case, but this time they are well behind Flavia, rather than simply arriving at the same conclusions via variant paths.  Aunt Felicity, despite offering bewilderingly supportive words of encouragement, has some unconventional thoughts on raising children ("Children ought to be horsewhipped," she used to say, "unless they are going in for politics or the Bar, in which case they ought in addition to be drowned.").  Daphne is, as usual, buried in books and evil looks, while vain Ophelia is courted by a German pilot and former POW who knows more than he tells, and is thoroughly obsessed with English literature.

Bradley--and Flavia--is consistently brilliant.  I had to put the book aside for a week when I was nearing the conclusion, and if I hadn't been so occupied during that time, it would have driven me mad.  I was still disappointed that when I returned to the library, someone else had checked out the next in the series, and I now have to wait even longer to find out what Flavia does next.

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posted by reyn at 12:34 PM


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