Review: The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley

Title: The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag
Author: Alan Bradley
Pages: 364
Genre: Contemporary Fictiion
Release Date: March 19th, 2010
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Personal Copy

In this follow up to Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, our heroine Flavia de Luce finds herself taking on the role of amateur sleuth in order to solve another murder mystery in the town of Bishop's Lacy. Rupert Porson, the charismatic host of the BBC program Porson's Puppets, and his assistant Nialla are passing through town when an unexpected problem with their van forces them to stay overnight. While waiting for the van to be repaired, the couple is persuaded into putting on a couple of impromptu performances for the local public at the church.

It is during the second performance that Porson suffers an electrical jolt that causes his death. Now an investigation is under way to decide whether the electrocution was accidental or murder and, more importantly, who is responsible and what could possible be his or her motive. Adding to the mystery is a potential connection between Porson's death and the accidental suicide of a young boy many years ago. As always, young Flavia, along with her trusty bicycle Gladys, finds herself right in the middle of all the action and sets out to put the pieces together.

The positive opinion I had of Bradley's characters and place construction that I wrote about in my review of the previous book in the series (which you can find here) can pretty much be attributed to this book as well. It's a little harder to write about the next book in a series without completely rehashing a previous review, but I will try. The story uses the same formula; the death of a mysterious stranger who has just recently arrived in town and the connection of a murder from the past. The tone of The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag was slighter darker and included allusions to subjects such as domestic violence and drug use. I don't particularly like that direction so hopefully Bradley keeps the series on the lighter side. Also, I felt the references to chemicals and the experiments to be a little long winded and tedious this time around.

I did enjoy The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag other than those few negatives. Flavia doesn't fail to entertain with her charming wit and her sleuthing skills. It's always nice to be able to pick up a book and already know the world in which you are about to enter. Sometimes familiarity is just what I need. If you were a fan of the first book then I definitely recommend continuing with the series.


  1. Jenna,
    I need to get the rest of these books because I loved the first. I also agree that I hope stays lighter as that's what I found so charming about the novel. I recently saw the fourth installment at B&N and have to say that the cover art was pretty cheesy. I really like the first and third novels cover designs because they're colorful, yet simple. Glad you enjoyed this one!

  2. I also thought this was a pretty good continuation of the series. I found the first bit kind if slow, but once the mystery got going it was just as good as the first.

    I really need to find the time to read 3+4. I need more Flavia!

  3. I want to pick up the first in this series, as I have heard so many good things about it and need a good escapist read. Glad to hear that this one was pretty good too!

  4. Beth - Hmm, I'll have to check out the cover of the 4th book. I really hope everything stays on the smart side and doesn't detour into fluff.

    Christa - Yes, the first part dragged for me too. I didn't like that it took so long for the actual murder to happen. Hopefully Bradley will remedy that in book 3!

    Zibilee - I would definitely suggest this series if you're looking for a fun quick read. Very smartly written.


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