- Publisher: Orion (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
- Format: Hardback | 352 pages
- Dimensions: 142mm x 218mm x 36mm | 499g
- Publication date: 15 April 2010
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0752897136
- ISBN 13: 9780752897134
- Sales rank: 195,426
The story opens with the immortal words 'I was lying dead in the churchyard' (spoken, astonishingly, by Flavia herself) and ends with a funeral watched by the De Luce family on a newly-installed television set. Inbetween, Alan Bradley weaves a hauntingly nightmarish tale that involves Punch & Judy - and in particular Mr Punch's nemesis, the hangman, Jack Ketch - a frighteningly realistic puppet show, and a hitherto unexplored corner of Bishop's Lacey known as Gibbet's Wood. The plot, beginning with the arrival in Bishop's Lacey of a travelling puppet show, features a grisly murder during a performance of Jack and the Beanstalk in the village hall and reaches back to an earlier, even nastier crime centring on an ancient, rotting gibbet that has lain like a shadow over the village for years. For Flavia, undoing the complex knot that ties these strands together will test her precocious powers of deduction to the limit - and provide a shocking insight into some of the darker corners of the adult world.
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Alan Bradley is a retired Director of Televison Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, where he lectured on screen writing. He is the author of the memoir, THE SHOEBOX BIBLE, as well as the first Flavia de Luce mystery, THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE.
By Marleen Kennedy 07 Jan 2011
This book was send to me by Bookdagger for my honest review.
This is the second book by Alan Bradley featuring the precocious Flavia de Luce.
Flavia is eleven years old, the youngest of three sisters who live with their philatelist and rather absent father in a mansion in the country-side in England in the 1950's.
Flavia could easily have been a lonely and sad little girl, bullied by her sisters, half believing that she caused her mother's death and more or less ignored by her father, but she's far to busy to be miserable. Her natural curiosity, her chemical laboratory, her fascination with poisons and her trusted bicycle Gladys combined keep her more than occupied.
It is on one of her rambles in the neighbourhood that she meets puppeteer Rupert Porson and his assistant Nialla. She immediately senses that there is a strong undercurrent between these two characters and that there might a mystery to resolve. But even Flavia's more than active imagination couldn't have conjured up what happens during a show put on my Rupert and Nialla. Within days of first meeting the duo Flavia is not only trying to solve a murder she all but witnessed but also the tragic death of a five year old boy six years earlier.
I do enjoy these mysteries, and am growing quite fond of Flavia.
The mysteries are very well plotted and the solutions make perfect sense. The characters in the book are quirky and eccentric enough to keep a smile on my face and the story flows really well.
My only reservation is that Flavia at times is a bit too precocious for an eleven year old. While in may ways she is a child and acts as one, she seems to be a bit too wise when it comes to solving a crime, and, this stretches the imagination the most, understanding the motivations of adults.
I personally could also do without the, at times very elaborate, descriptions of chemical experiments and compounds.
But, despite these two, minor, issues I do enjoy these books and the character of Flavia a lot. And I'm very happy to know that a third book in this series is due to be published this year.
'Readers ready to allow themselves to be led by Flavia's strong, cool intelligence and sharp wit and Bradley's deft evocation of a past that never quite existed, will certainly welcome the reappearance of this most original heroine' -- Yvonne Klein REVIEWING THE EVIDENCE.COM 'In this mystery, subtle humor abounds - the kind that kids who know they're really smarter than adults thrive on. It's Harry Potter territory without wizards and with more erudite writing... If Bradley's characters don't make it on the big screen, someone out there is reading the wrong stuff' -- Sue Emmons MYSTERY SCENE 'Precocious amateur sleuth and chemist Flavia de Luce returns in this charming and captivating sequel...This is a fresh and kooky crime novel that will leave you wanting more" WATERSTONES BOOKS QUARTERLY 'Alan Bradley weaves a hauntingly nightmarish tale that involves Punch & Judy - and in particular Mr Punch's nemesis, the hangman, Jack Ketch - a frighteningly realistic puppet show, and a hitherto unexplored corner of Bishop's Lacey known as Gibbet's Wood. For Flavia, undoing the complex knot that ties these strands together will test her precocious powers of deduction to the limit - and provide a shocking insight into some of the darker corners of the adult world' TANGLED WEB 'This is a rich fruitcake of a book, chock-full of choice morsels, drenched in heartening spirit!...All will be revealed, of course, as the intricate plot unfolds, but there is such period charm to this book, and the precocious Flavia is so original a character, that on all fronts it's a joy to read from start to finish!' CORNFLOWER 'I didn't work out the ending until it happened ...and so Bradley and Flavia outwitted me which I enjoyed. I do like feeling very clever and having figured it all out myself but there are more twists and turns and with an addition of an old mystery thrown in you have lots more to contend with...I think this series is just going to keep on getting better and better. Its books like this that make reading such a pleasure' SAVIDGE READS 'Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old sleuth, who first captured readers' hearts in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie,, unravels a complex plot. There are some chilling moments in this ingenious novel' CHOICE 'memorably funny' HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEW 'this is a rich fruitcake of a book, chock-full of choice morsels, drenched in heartening spirit!...The intricate plot unfolds neatly against a charming period backdrop of 1950s' England, while the precocious but indomitable Flavia is so original a character that the book is a joy to read' GOOD BOOK GUIDE