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Book: The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

November 10, 2010

(yes, image from Amazon, how can you tell?)

And the award for Most Difficult Title To Correctly Remember goes to… the most recent Flavia de Luce novel!

Woohoo! I loved this book. Such fun. Such cracking good fun, if you want to know the truth. Never has puppetry, poison, hemp and crotchety old aunts been mingled together with such cheerful wacky characters.

As in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, this book works on so many levels. On the top, you have quirky, serious-yet-adorable Flavia, 11-year-old chemist and amateur detective. Her narrative is funny, interesting, engaging, and never too cute (I believe Flavia would call it, with undisguised disgust, “twee”). And yet underneath, a fairly grisly murder mystery, which Flavia of course quickly gets involved in.

I won’t summarize, because half the fun of the book is discovering the odd characters as they appear, but I do hope there are more Flavia books on the horizon because these are perfect for when I need something light but not fluffy, fun but not throwaway.  Post-war Britain, crumbling estates and a small village make the perfect setting for small-town adventures, even when evil visits and kills off some deserving soul. For the souls that get killed are most decidedly deserving, which makes the books slightly less dark (and in this case, that is a good thing, as they never fall into the “icky” category. I don’t have a problem with “icky” but Flavia is, after all, only 11).

Now, contrast this with a book I recently DNF (did not finish). The Bad Book Affair (a Mobile Library mystery) had all the signs of a similarly good read: Britain (Ireland, this time), a quirky librarian, a small village, some kind of murder mystery… but after three excruciatingly overworked chapters (trying so hard to be light and witty and modern-day ironic…)… I had to give up. After three chapters, still no murder, I was still bored to tears by the main character, the writing was trying so very hard to be witty… I couldn’t do it. It sounded like it had so much promise. Maybe some other time.

So I went with a tried-and-true cozy: Rose Cottage, by Mary Stewart. This is not really a great work of literature either, but it is exactly what it’s supposed to be: a cozy, ever-so-slightly mysterious mystery, a tiny wee bit of romance, and tons and tons of English country gardens and cottages. That is pretty much why I like to read her books: cozy cottage gardens, with the promise of fresh scones and tea. Sometimes that is just what you need in a book.

After I finish this, I will be moving on to the Merlin Trilogy, also by her, which I have been attempting to read for nearly 20 years. Maybe this time I will succeed?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2010 7:07 am

    That is a tough title! The book sounds like good fun. Will have to keep it in mind for the future. Too bad about The Bad Book Affair. I’ve not read the Merlin Trilogy. James has and had fond memories of it but I tried once and was just never able to get into them for some reason.

    • November 10, 2010 7:09 pm

      You’d like these, Steph. Light reading, but oh so fun. I don’t know why I haven’t been able to read the Merlin Trilogy, but we’ll give it another go and see how it goes this time…

  2. November 10, 2010 7:43 am

    this book sounds good.

    i just finished Dark Places. loved it!!!

    • November 10, 2010 7:09 pm

      Isn’t it SO good? You’ll have to tell me what you thought of it, in detail!

  3. November 10, 2010 8:23 am

    I need to read this! Sadly it’s back home, but I can always get to it during Christmas break or bring it over afterwards. I miss Flavia.

    • November 10, 2010 7:09 pm

      Flavia is worth missing. It was a fun one. Not quite as good as the first, but still plenty of good fun.

  4. November 10, 2010 10:01 am

    I love wacky characters. They make me seem normal. Another book to add to the growing pile.

  5. November 11, 2010 12:36 pm

    Thrilled to bits to read how much you enjoyed Flavia’s latest adventure. And we only have to wait a couple of more months for the next one! Yay!!!!

    Didn’t mention it earlier, but your Lady Gaga outfit was THE BOMB! 🙂

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