Thursday, April 1, 2010

NEW BOOK! Review: The Amateur Sleuth Returns!

Ah Flavia, we meet again. Bantam Dell has just published the latest in Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce mysteries—The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag. You may remember the first in the series from last summer—the runaway bestseller A Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (review: here). For the second title in the series, Flavia, our 10- (almost 11!) year-old sleuth, is back and on top of the newest mystery to ascend upon Bishop's Lacey.

With the opening line, "I was lying dead in the churchyard," Flavia illustrates her flair for the dramatic, and so begins Flavia's newest adventure. Shortly after her imaginary funeral, Flavia comes across a stranger strewn across a tombstone, weeping, in the church cemetery. Upon further investigation, Flavia discovers that a traveling puppeteer and his female assistant (said weeper) have detoured to Bishop's Lacey. But Flavia suspects the famous Rupert Porson of Porson's Puppets is not such a stranger to Bishop's Lacey after all. After his mysterious death by electricity, Flavia finds herself entangled in two murder mysteries distanced by time but arguably connected.

Bradley's second Flavia mystery is as enjoyable as the first, though I found that it took quite a bit longer to get into the suspense of the story. Flavia, again, is the most fun character I've encountered lately. She's astoundingly brilliant and alarmingly self-aware, as indicated by this line:
"At this, a great laugh went up from the children in the audience, and I have to admit I chuckled a little myself. I'm at that age where I watch such things with two minds, one that cackles at these capers and another that never gets much beyond a rather jaded and self-conscious smile, like the Mona Lisa."
She has a thirst for adventure but with a bit of that childhood naivety that leaves her blind to any real danger. She peppers her descriptions with literary quotes and references, and her chemistry genius proves her mind is beyond that of an average 10-year-old. She can concoct an antidote from the sodium nitrate in pigeon droppings and develop a poison of hydrogen sulfide from scratch, but in the end, Flavia's biggest troubles are a couple of older bullies...her sisters. The blend of Flavia's extravagant adventures and her seemingly monotonous everyday life results in a fun series that I am excited to continue.

Visit the Flavia website at

1 comment:

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

I'm glad to see the series is good. I just put the audio of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie on my phone, and I'm really looking forward to listening to it.