Carolyn Hill's Reviews > The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
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Oct 05, 10

Read in October, 2010

Flavia de Luce is quite the character. Her original voice is what makes this book and its predecessor so remarkable. Flavia has a precocious fascination with chemistry and an exceedingly morbid curiosity about death and all of its stages of putrefaction which combine in her adoration of poisons. Hardly the typical pursuits of a girl going-on-eleven who lives in the quiet English countryside in 1950, who now adds solving mysteries to her pastimes. Author Bradley sets the tone in the opening sentence where Flavia states, "I was lying dead in the churchyard." Flavia's capacity for imagination is as much a sign of her intelligence as her spouting of chemical formulas. While many of Flavia's observations can certainly be funny, the tone of the book balances on a razor wire between charming light "cozy" entertainment and a sad dark rendering of pain, loss and suffering. It is the latter which gives this seemingly fluffy story its depth. Not every thing hangs together in this book: there are dangling plot lines and unresolved situations, some of which may show up in future additions to the series. I would caution parents who might think the age of the main character makes this a children's book. I, for one, found the hanging of a five-year-old child disturbing (this is not giving anything away as it is revealed near the beginning of the book) and almost did not continue. But Flavia's intrepid voice lured me on, and I did enjoy it despite her penchant for morbidity.
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