The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag – Alan Bradley

Posted 21 June, 2012 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 18 Comments


Title: The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag
Author: Alan Bradley
Narrator: Jayne Entwistle
Published: 2010; Pages: 358
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4/5

In Short: The ever inquisitive Flavia de Luce finds herself in another mystery when a traveling children’s puppet show makes its way into her local parish and stirs up questioning when one of the puppets resembles a little boy who accidentally hung in the woods a few years prior. Ya–the plot is a bit complex with this one.

Why I read/Listened: I really enjoyed the first Flavia novel, Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and during my maternity leave I needed something quick and snappy.  Both Amanda and Tanya are curious why I read AND listened to this one. I listened to it several months ago (and months after finishing the book) in hopes of remembering it well enough to write a review. Ha!

What You Wanted to Know:

How did this book compare, for you, to the first book in the series? (Kailana)

As with anything else, circumstances while reading greatly affect my enjoyment. I mostly read this book while nursing Elle, so in short bursts, whereas I read Sweetness within a few hours during a Readathon. Consequently I never really felt completely pulled into Hangman. Another factor was that the action in Hangman seems to come much later than in Sweetness. I think that my reaction would have been a little different had some of the mystery not be as delayed. All that said, I did still enjoy this one.

What do you think of Flavia as a character? Is she believable? (Kailana)

I love Flavia. She has a lot of characteristics that I would love to see in my own daughter when she’s older–curiosity, intelligence, persistance. Maybe too smart for her own good but all in fun.

I thought this one was much darker than the first and not as believable. What did you think? Did you believe that an eleven-year-old could get mixed up in all that? (Joanna)

It is tough to keep in mind when reading these books that Flavia is only eleven. Granted a very intelligent eleven-year-old, but just as you begin to forget, Flavia does something pesky to remind you of her relative immaturity. I think I just had to swallow any bit of inconceivability and just go with it? What do you guys think of Flavia?

Bottom Line: I enjoyed reading this one and listening to it, but the audio only worked for me when I increased the speed to double time. Jayne Entwistle sounded too old and it was difficult to keep in mind that Flavia is so young–I think that Sarah Drew would have been a better fit. Overall? Liked Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie better but I’ll eventually pick up the next book in the series.

Have you read any of the books in this series? What do you think of them?

18 Responses to “The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag – Alan Bradley”

  1. I’ve read the whole series (first four books so far) and really enjoy them. I’ll admit the plots all run together, but Flavia and the other characters are the reason I enjoy them.

  2. I’m not sure who the narrator was for the audio version I listened to, but I despised it! I didn’t like the book much in print either, but in audio it just grated on me. I was listening to it as we went to WI last year, and by that point, it was my third or fourth attempt to read it so I just kept pushing on even though I hated the audio. I’m sure that affected my enjoyment, but honestly, I doubt I would have liked it in print or with another narrator either. I just didn’t like this book. But I was definitely willing to read on in the series, and the third book is (so far) my favorite of the three!

  3. *Melissa – I agree that the characters are all so much fun–I look forward to seeing what Flavia’s next adventure will be. I do have the third book but not sure when I’ll get to it.

    *Amanda – I believe there’s only one narrator so it’s probably the same that I listened to. Not sure if you saw where I had to listen on double time to get through it–her narration was SO drawn out that it was painful to listen on regular time. I haven’t read the third yet but glad to hear it’s your favorite! Did you know there’s a fourth one? Half Sick of Half Shadows (or something).

  4. I loved Sweetness, and have intended to pick this one up also. I’m still reading from my shelves, and since there is a long way to go, Flavia will have to wait.

  5. Anonymous

    There are several recorded versions of the Flavia books: the unabridged UK versions read by Sophie Aldred, the abridged versions read by Emelia Fox, and the U.S. and Canadian versions read by Jayne Entwistle.

  6. *Bermudaonion – Great thing about these books are they’re so short! Plus that Flavia is just so much fun.

    *Irene – LOL–I know what you mean about reading from your shelves. I was able to pick this one up on a large discount and borrowed the third from my dad (haven’t read yet).

    *Anonymous – Thanks for the information about the different audio versions! I can’t imagine this book being abridged but I’ll check out the UK version. Jayne Entwistle is a great narrator I just didn’t see her fitting with Flavia–though on double speed she sounded a bit spunkier and that worked perfectly. ;)

  7. I really enjoyed the first novel in this series, and I’m looking forward to this one. It’s interesting that this one is darker — I’m not sure how I’ll feel about that. And yes, I’d like for my daughters to have some of Flavia’s traits, minus the fascination with poisons. :-)

  8. *Stephanie – Ha! yes, I guess it might not be good for little girls to have a fascination with poison but maybe chemistry instead? Either way she’s such a fun character–think these would make great movies!

    *Kristen – I’m SO glad to hear you say that you like 3 and 4 the best! I want to continue on but didn’t feel like this had the punch of Sweetness but now I’ll move to three sooner.

    *Teatimereader – The audio worked fine when I moved it to double time but overall these are best read, I think. Enjoy!

  9. I keep meaning to try the 1st book by this author as it seems that everyone and anyone has read/enjoyed it. I just need to find the time to read all of these books :)

  10. *Kailana – You should read more of the Flavia books! Wonder how many there will be in total.

    *Word Lily – Enjoyed but like the first one better? Have heard they get better with 3 and 4!

    *(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea – Put the audio on double time and get through them! ;) Enjoy.

    *Samantha.1020 – Oh yes! I think that you’d like these books. They’re fun and lighthearted but also very smartly written.

  11. So it is best to avoid this one in audio? I very much enjoyed the first FLavia book but have yet to pick up the rest of the series. One day? I’mn sorry to hear this wasn’t quite as convincing as The Sweetness..

  12. *iris – Hmmmm…I don’t know if you need to avoid it; I didn’t think that the narrator suited the main character. Otherwise the audio was fine. But a commenter above mentioned there’s a different UK version. That might be better?