Friday, April 9, 2010

Lacking the sweetness of the first book

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag (Flavia de Luce Mystery #2)
Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce is back in the second murder mystery to strike her idyllic English town. The resurfacing of circumstances of the mysterious death of a small boy and the sudden appearance of a famous puppeteer for the BBC seem to be inexplicably intertwined.

I found Bradley's sophomore cozy mystery to be much less charming that his first. The actual murder mystery aspects were not revealed until about halfway through the book (and not even surprisingly, as the death of Rupert Porson is stated on the dust-jacket summary); Flavia's investigation is very much separate from the Inspectors, which removed the aspect of her remaining one ingenious step ahead of the official investigation; and the solving of the mystery seemed to come a little out of no-where and lacked the intrigue and danger of the first book. I am starting to be less sympathetic and more appalled by the home life of Flavia - her sisters are allowed to torment her endlessly and her father seems completely unconcerned with where she disappears to for endless amounts of time.

What saved this book from a lower rating is that Flavia is a lovable character who is witty and precocious without being too rebellious, though her blatant love for chemistry was reduced to my dismay; the story did have some very surprising twists and turns as the lives and relationships of the townsfolk were revealed; and Dodger is perhaps the most unlikely of insightful, father-like characters in contemporary fiction, and I can't help but absolutely adore his and Flavia's friendship. I enjoy the role that small-town gossip plays in the story - being from a small town I so I am completely amused by how realistic the "secret" information is passed along at the speed of light! lol

While I generally am not a huge fan of cozy mysteries (I am morbidly fascinated by gory details of the murders and investigations) but I will most likely indulge in the third Flavia de Luce that Bradley is currently writing - The Red Herring Without Mustard - in hopes that it will be more similar to The Sweetness than The Weed.

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