Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, by Alan Bradley ($15)

Although Alan Bradley has just released #4 in the series, here I am just finishing #2. On the one hand, I am pleased to have two more to look forward to; and on the other hand, I'm anxious to get caught up. Especially since the two remaining have such cool names: A Red Herring Without Mustard and I Am Half-Sick of Shadows.

Speaking of cool names, the 11-year-old heroine is named Flavia de Luce. Her family is blue-blooded, her home is a mansion in rural England, and she is for all intents and purposes alone in the world. Yes, she has a father, but he's distant, shell-shocked, on the verge of losing his holdings. Yes, Flavia has two older sisters, but they take every opportunity to let her know that she's a pest, not wanted, and being shipped off to a Home at the earliest opportunity. Flavia's hobby is creating poisons in her home laboratory.

It is 1950, which the author lets the reader figure out from a couple of hints in the first few pages. (Sorry if I've spoiled your fun.) Flavia meets a famous puppeteer and his assistant when their van breaks down in her small village of Bishop's Lacey. When Rupert Porson, the puppeteer, dies, Flavia succeeds in figuring out, à la Sherlock Holmes, that it was murder. Flavia tracks down Rupert's connection to the little village, which then opens up the field as far as murder suspects go.

Flavia is charming, eccentric, and knowledgeable beyond her years. Yet she is still an 11-year-old child, and her heart yearns for her dead mother, kindness from others, and a grace that is missing from her life.

Although it's a grown-up murder with grown-up reasons and repercussions, the narrator is refreshingly young. She deals with the difficulties in her life as best she can.

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