Bookbyte: The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

A Red Herring Without Mustard

A Red Herring Without Mustard

Alan Bradley’s latest Flavia de Luce mystery, A Red Herring Without Mustard, hits bookshelves on Feb. 8. While eagerly anticipating the latest installment in this exciting new series, I recommend Bradley’s previous Flavia mystery, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, and not just because it has a snappier title.

Flavia de Luce hit the literary scene in 2009 with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Bradley, a Canadian, has created a fresh, smart character and a living, breathing little world.

In Bag, Flavia, an eleven-year-old chemistry enthusiast, lives in the 1950s English town of Bishop’s Lacey. With the help of her trusty bicycle, Gladys, Flavia tries to solve the murder of a famous puppeteer who has been electrocuted on-stage. Flavia’s sharp tongue tends to get her into more trouble than the average eleven-year-old roaming the English countryside might find herself in, but her smarts and knowledge of poisons always gets her out.

Bradley’s writing is witty and the mystery moves at a brisk place. Bag takes Flavia to darker places than Pie does, but the result is a stronger, more compelling work than Bradley’s debut. Here’s hoping Flavia’s third outing is even stronger.

— Chance

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