The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (Audiobook) by Alan Bradley, Jayne Entwistle

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's BagThe Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

by Alan Bradley, Jayne Entwistle (Narrator)
Series: Flavia de Luce, #2

Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hrs., 49 min.
Random House Audio, 2010

Read: March 21 – 27, 2017

I think I’d have phrased things a bit differently, but in the interest of time, I’m just going to copy and paste from my thoughts when I read the book a couple of years ago and add in a bit for the audiobook:
The plucky young chemist with a nascent obsession with death is back in action. The case is a little less personal for Flavia de Luce this time, but that doesn’t stop her from jumping in whole hog to get to the bottom of it.

Flavia runs into a couple of traveling performers with some car trouble and before you know it, she’s got them some help–and a gig. While she hangs around the TV star and his assistant, she finds herself surrounded by some of her town’s darker history and then face to face with a murder. And Flavia being Flavia, she can’t resist sticking her nose in and making sure all the knots are untangled–particularly the ones adults are ignoring, despite them being painfully obvious to her.

We get less of Flavia’s sisters (and the rest of the household, come to think of it) in this installment–but when they’re around, their impact is greater. Clearly, as this series continues, there’s going to be some serious drama on the homefront with some major implications for the de Luce family, I hope Bradley tackles that quickly, the foreshadowing’s getting old quickly.

Unlike with so many other amateur sleuths (particularly juveniles), it’s nice to see that her reputation and track record are acknowledged by some in the community — which is both a help and a hindrance, I hope to see more of that in the future.

Entwistle really impressed me again with her narration. Not just the way she nails Flavia — both the good and the bad aspects of her personality. But her work on the rest of the characters — the TV star’s assistant in particular — really won me over, showing a little more range than we got to see, er, hear last time.

My only major quibble with this installment is that it takes far too long to set the main action of the novel up–in a 348 page mystery novel, you’d better get to the central crime before page 150 or so. Unless you’ve got a heroine like Flavia to focus on, I can’t imagine being patient enough to wait that long to get the ball rolling. Entwistle’s performance helps, but, man, it drags on awhile before Bradley’s done setting things up and gets things moving.

Another fun (occasionally hilarious) read, with a mystery satisfyingly twisty, with just enough red herrings to get you through it.

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3.5 Stars

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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Audiobook) by Alan Bradley, Jayne Entwistle

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

by Alan Bradley, Jayne Entwistle (Narrator)
Series: Flavia de Luce, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs
Random House Audio, 2009
Read: June 2 – 6 ,2016


This is going to be one of those quick ones where I mostly quote myself:

Our 11-year-old hero (no, this is not a kid’s book [not that there’s anything inappropriate for anyone who’s made it through Rowling here]) is a budding, self-taught, chemist with a curious mind and a stubborn streak a mile wide. Her family life is a mess — but in a charming, amusing, English countryside way — but our plucky gal has managed to get through it pretty much intact and for the better.

So when she discovers a body on her lawn, yet the police shoo her away from the crime scene and dismiss her, she starts her own investigation. She’s helped early on by a fact or two the police didn’t obtain from her, and some that she kept to herself out of spite. Her father’s arrest for the murder just adds fuel to her fire and becomes determined not only to solve the case before the police but to make them eat a good-sized helping of crow.

Probably not much of a spoiler to say that’s exactly what she does, because the book’s not about that foregone conclusion, but in watching Flavia do that while making less-than-flattering observations about her older sisters.

This second time through, I did appreciate the way this whole thing was constructed — particularly the mystery and the reveal — but also the character moments. I also found the stamp minutiae a little more interesting (but wow, did it take a long time to get through!). I did think there was more of the inspector in this one, but that’s just my memory failing me.

Entwistle was really solid in her narration — I honestly can’t imagine that anyone else could’ve pulled it off. Well, maybe Yeardley Smith, if she can do British accents. Entwistle captures the spark that makes Flavia Flavia, the wit, the spirit, the naïveté; and does a fine job with the rest of the cast of characters, as well.

All in all, a fine audiobook rendering of a fun crime novel. Strongly recommended.

—–

3.5 Stars

Review Catch Up: Broken Homes; Black Arts; The Player; Speaking from Among the Bones

I’ve got a backlog of 50 or so reviews I’ve been meaning to write — some of them, I just have to admit aren’t going to get done. But I’m going to try my level best. The four books I’ve decided to tackle in one fell swoop are books I enjoyed, from series I enjoy, and yet I’ve had trouble reviewing them. In the end, I decided that was because by and large, I don’t have anything to say about these books that I haven’t said about others in the series.

But I do want 1. clear these off my to-do list and 2. more importantly, encourage readers to give these a look. So, without further ado:

Broken Homes (Peter Grant, #4)Broken Homes

by Ben Aaronovitch
Series: The Rivers of London, #4

Mass Market Paperback, 324 pg.
DAW, 2014
Read: February 15, 2014

The plot took its own sweet time getting where it was going, with a lot of strange little turns here and there — which works because it’s probably what actual policemen go through investigating a crime. But almost doesn’t work because it makes it feel like Aaronovitch didn’t pace this correctly (which is silly, because he did).

I really, really liked the undercover stuff. The conclusion is probably the best that this series has been. It’d be great if Peter learned a bit more though, his stumbling efforts are amusing, but it’s time for more proficiency.

I’m eager for the next one of these (and would be even without the big twist) — such a great world he’s created here, and I want to learn more about it and the characters that inhabit it.
4 Stars

—–

Black Arts (Jane Yellowrock, #7)Black Arts

by Faith Hunter
Series: Jane Yellowrock, #7
Mass Market Paperback, 325 pg.
Roc, 2014
Read: March 25 – 29, 2014

What’s to say about this one, that I haven’t said about other books in the series already?

The action’s tight, the vamp politics and Jane’s interaction with it are pretty interesting, Faith’s coming to grips with more of her background was really compelling, and her growing relationship with the brothers is fun.

Obviously, this is the most personal case that Jane’s had yet — for someone to be messing around with Molly, that’s just beyond the pale. Those raised stakes (pun fully intended), and the ongoing drama with Leo’s grip on the New Orleans vampires made this the best of the series.
4 Stars

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The Player: A Mystery (Carter Ross, #5)The Player

by Brad Parks
Series: Carter Ross, #5

Hardcover, 336 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2014
Read: April 1 – 4, 2014

What’s to say about this one, that I haven’t said about other books in the series already?

A lot of fun — great characters, love Carter’s voice, everything that you want to see in a Carter Ross novel was here — twisty conspiracy, some good laughs, Carter’s personal life in shambles. It was nice to meet his family.

Sadly, I’m at a loss for words here (something that never seems to be Carter’s problem), this was a lot of fun. I want a lot more of these.
4 Stars

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Speaking from Among the Bones (Flavia de Luce, #5 )Speaking from Among the Bones

by Alan Bradley

Hardcover, 372 pg.
Delacorte Press, 2013
May 16 – 14, 2014

Flavia’s her typical charming, precocious, incorrigible self. Perhaps a bit more clever than we’ve seen her before, definitely with less a sense of self-preservation than we’ve seen previously. Her sisters are a bit, more human? Or maybe Flavia’s portraying them more honestly/more sympathetically. The financial pressures her father’s under are more and more pressing, causing everyone to be a bit more realistic, it seems.

Still, that doesn’t deter Flavia from doing her thing when a body is discovered. It’s everything you want in a Flavia de Luce novel — very, very smart conclusion to this mystery.
3 Stars