(If you’ve visited alenaslife looking for my usual Monday Quote, I’m taking this Columbus Day off. Monday Quote will return next week. In its place, I offer a short review of my most recent audio read, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag.)
“You are unreliable, Flavia,’ he said. ‘Utterly unreliable.’
Of course I was! It was one of the things I loved most about myself.”
I just love Flavia de Luce, the precocious 11 year-old narrator of Alan Bradley’s entertaining mystery series. I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie a couple of years ago, based on its title alone. I never thought I’d be so engaged by a British mystery, but Bradley has a way of making me almost forget that there’s a murder to be solved. Instead, I’m swept into the mind of Flavia, the incredibly bright motherless chemist and amateur detective.
I am often thought of as being remarkably bright, and yet my brains, more often than not, are busily devising new and interesting ways of bringing my enemies to sudden, gagging, writhing, agonizing death.”
Indeed, Flavia spends many remarkable paragraphs cooking up concoctions in her laboratory, located in one of the wings of her family’s troubled estate, Buckshaw. Never one for chemistry formulas myself, I am still engaged by how her knowledge (obsession really) with organic principles, poisons and death, always seem to embroil her in Bishop Lacy’s latest drama. The trouble in these books just seems to find Flavia.
Flavia takes me back to my love of Trixie Belden as a young girl. The difference is that, unlike Trixie’s loving family and band of best friends, Flavia seems quite alone. Her sisters are “horrid;” her father is aloof at best; and there are seemingly no other children in the vividly imagined Bishop Lacy. When Bradley does introduce a heartfelt moment, as he does with Flavia’s aunt in this book, those scenes resonate even more for their rarity.
“There’s a lot to be said for being alone. But you and I know, don’t we, Flavia, that being alone and being lonely are not at all the same thing?”
This storyline revolves around the sudden appearance of a puppeteer and his female assistant. There is, of course, a dead body (more than one actually), and a cast of extremely complex supporting characters, most of whom are suspect.
It’s remarkable that over the week I listened to this book in my car, I was often reluctant to turn off the CD, and always eager to return to driving alone. The narration was charmingly British. I never guessed the mystery, which is an added treat, but not what makes me love this series. Flavia de Luce has joined Scout Finch and Trixie Belden as among my favorite young heroines, wise beyond their years and beautifully innocent at once.
I can’t wait to find out what awaits her next.
- Alan Bradley – The Weed That Strings the Handman’s Bag (sffbookreview.wordpress.com)