RogerBW's Blog

The Weed That Strings The Hangman's Bag, Alan Bradley 24 October 2016

2010 historical mystery; second in Bradley's series about Flavia de Luce, young amateur sleuth in 1950s Britain. Rupert Porson, the famous puppeteer (at least to those who have televisions), was passing through the village of Bishop's Lacey when his van broke down; since he's stuck there overnight, he might as well put on a show. But it's all going to go horribly wrong.

This is a very busy story, with plenty of investigation of Fell Deeds in the past of the village. In spite of that, it gets off to a very slow start, with no killing until nearly half-way through – and while there's some detail before that which will be useful later, it's sunk in a sea of irrelevancies. Things do rather pick up after that, though.

The mystery is still the principal point of the book, rather than the period detail, but it's a close-run thing at times. In the life of the village, one of Flavia's sisters becomes involved with a German former prisoner of war who's rather more complex than appears, and her Aunt Felicity arrives for a visit and is less batty than she seems.

"If you remember nothing else, remember this: Inspiration from outside one's self is like the heat in an oven. It makes passable Bath buns. But inspiration from within is like a volcano: It changes the face of the world."

As with several other "odd detective" series (I'm thinking particularly of Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher stories), one really has to get oneself very much in sympathy with the principal – even as she plots to poison, or at least seriously embarrass, her sisters.

All right, there are plenty of errors (the Bf 110 was not "nicknamed" Zerstörer, that was its designation as a heavy fighter), and one never quite forgets that this is a Canadian rather than a British author writing about Britain, but it's enjoyable trottle that gets the job done. Followed by A Red Herring Without Mustard.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Previous in series: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie | Series: Flavia de Luce | Next in series: A Red Herring Without Mustard

  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 02:31pm on 24 October 2016

    Do you mean foul deed? And trottle? Qu'est-ce?

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 02:38pm on 24 October 2016

    "Fell deeds" is quite a common phrasing, certainly Shakespearean; I'm surprised you haven't met it. See this earlier post for more on "trottle".

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 08:26pm on 24 October 2016

    Do authors regularly get things wrong that can be looked up in wikipedia? I'm talking about the BF 110.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 11:03pm on 24 October 2016

    It depends on the author. I read Bradley in spite of errors like that, because the characterisation is still enjoyable, and the error doesn't affect the plot; it just causes me to stumble as I'm reading, as I might over an infelicity of grammar, and then I pick myself up and continue.

    Personally I think it is an author's duty to check facts even when they are irrelevant or inconvenient – as for example in Still Bennies, my Falklands/Cthulhu scenario, where (not to give too much away to people who haven't played it) it would make my life easier as a GM to say "the Argentinian soldiers have dogtags with their dates of birth on them", but I checked and in fact Argentinian dogtags of that era didn't.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1