Bradley, Alan The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
Delacorte see Random 2010 364p 24.00
978-0-385-34231-5 hs/adult Mystery/Detective VG
Flavia de Luce once again uses her considerable intellect and vast chemical knowledge to solve another murder. This time there seem to be links to a child’s mysterious death many years before.
Bradley’s spunky heroine once again saves the day. The Debut Dagger (for Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie) Award winning author weaves a delciously entangled story, involving a German prison of war, a grieving mother, a famous television personality with multiple love affairs, a puppet stage with electrical problems and a meddling aunt.
Flavia is not above telling a few white lies and breaking into the periodical storage area of the public library to get to the bottom of this case, and that may bother some readers. Whereas Bradley’s last story had nothing objectionable for middle school readers, this tale does contain sexual references, an unwanted pregnancy and a farmer growing cannabis. Still nothing is overt or graphic, and the 11-year-old heroine solves the mystery by linking clues surrounding those plot revelations, so they are essential to the plot.
The meddling aunt does provide family background and a little emotional life for Flavia, but seems to be dropped too quickly. One can only hope that that area is explored in future novels. The historical setting (immediately post World War II) is essential to certain elements of the story, but does not hinder enjoyment of the mystery for mystery’s sake. Again, a thoroughly delightful read.
Although the language and literary nature of the novel, as well as the sexual references and cannabis, may make it unsuitable for younger audiences, high school readers and adults will enjoy this light-hearted murder mystery. Naismith(3), Pat
Murder mystery with historical setting