Oh I've been waiting and waiting for The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag! I fell in love with Alan Bradley's writing and his precocious protagonist - Flavia de Luce - in the first book in this series - The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. (you can read my rave review from last year)
It is 1950 and eleven year old Flavia is passing the morning. pretending to be dead in the churchyard in the small English village of Bishop's Lacey. Her reverie is interrupted by someone's crying. Flavia of course, is not one to let anything that captures her interest go uninvestigated. She finds that the caravan belonging to Porson's Puppets has broken down. While waiting for the van to be fixed, Rupert Porson agrees to put on a puppet show for the village. The show takes an unexpected turn when Rupert is killed. Accident or murder?
Well, this is right up Flavia's alley. Having solved a murder just last year, she is quite happy to assist Inspector Hewitt with the investigation. Inspector Hewitt isn't quite as thrilled.
"There, like a doll in a box, lay Rupert. Was I frightened out of my wits? I'm afraid not. Since the day I had found a body in the kitchen garden at Buckshaw, I had developed a fascination with death, with a particular emphasis on the chemistry of putrefaction."
Flavia is uncannily clever - indeed, her hobby is working in the old chemistry lab in the rambling mansion she shares with her absent minded father and two sisters. Her speciality is poisons. The 'war' between the sisters is always entertaining.
The mystery is quite interesting and well plotted, but it is the character developments that are the stars of this book. Every quirky village character is well drawn and I immediately established a picture of them as I read. But for me, it is Flavia that makes this series such a hit. Her curiosity, her keen observations, her disarming view of life utterly enchant me.
"Hullo! I shouted. It's always best to announce one's self heartily when trespassing. (Even though I had invented it on the spot, this seemed to be a good general rule)."
Flavia's Father - "You are unreliable, Flavia, " he said. "Utterly unreliable."
Flavia's response - not verbalized- " Of course I was! It was one of the things I loved most about myself."
What's not to love? Flavia is a thoroughly enchanting protagonist. I've always loved mysteries, especially when I was younger. I devoured the entire Nancy Drew series and always imagined myself solving mysteries along with them. I'm older now, but having just as much fun seeing the world through Flavia's eyes and helping to solve the mystery.
Flavia has a fan club - and of course I'm a member.
Alan Bradley is working on the next book in The Buckshaw Chronicles titled A Red Herring Without Mustard. Sigh - it's a long time til next year....