As soon as I finished the first book in the Buckshaw Chronicles, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, I picked up my ARC of The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. I am so pleased I had it for when I finished Sweetness because I just wanted to carry on with Flavia and her journey. I think it will be interesting to watch her grow in the next book as she is only 11 years old and incredibly bright.

Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce didn’t intend to investigate another murder — but then, Rupert Porson didn’t intend to die. When the master puppeteer’s van breaks down in the village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is front and centre to help Rupert and his charming assistant, Nialla, put together a performance in the local church to help pay the repair bill. But even as the newcomers set up camp and set the stage for Jack and the Beanstalk, there are signs that something just isn’t right: Nialla’s strange bruises and solitary cries in the churchyard, Rupert’s unexplained disappearances and a violent argument with his BBC producer, the disturbing atmosphere at Culverhouse Farm, and the peculiar goings-on in nearby Gibbet Wood — where young Robin Ingleby was found hanging just five years before…

[From the publisher, Random House of Canada]

While I found The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag to be a good book, and perfectly capable of standing alone, it didn’t have the same intrigue as The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. It was interesting getting to know more of the characters in Bishop’s Lacey, as well as some that we’d already encountered. But I think what I liked so much about the first book was that while Inspector Hewitt never included Flavia (per se) in the investigation, she was a big part of it. Also, it was sort of like finding the skeletons in your own family’s closet.

That’s not to say that The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag isn’t a good read. As I said, it stands alone as well as fits nicely with the first book. And it wasn’t too repetitive if you’d already read the first book. It was a little bit predictable, but what would a mystery novel be if you couldn’t try to solve the case along with the characters? I really enjoyed Flavia’s sleuthing and I am looking forward to the third book, A Red Herring Without Mustard.

I think that Alan Bradley has found a lovely balance between YA and adult literature. Adults can enjoy the book and identify with Flavia on certain levels, but the text isn’t too heavy that a young adult reader wouldn’t enjoy it. It reminds me very much of the accessiblity of The Book Thief… but Alan Bradley’s subjects are a little more light-hearted. It also makes me think of those Agatha Christie detective shows and some of the British soaps; the ones where you think, ‘why would anyone live in that village? Everyone ends up dead!’ but it’s so plausible at the same time.

Full disclosure: I received this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program.

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