Category: Mystery

He and Mr. Ed are always there to protect and serve

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, Alan Bradley

So kudos to me. I picked a book by a Canadian author before I had even officially joined the Canadian Book Challenge hosted by What is the Canadian Book Challenge you’re asking? Well I’ve got one year to read 13 books by Canadian authors and review them here on Book Bites. In response to what you’re all thinking 1). Yes there are prizes 2). Yes Canadians can write books 3). No I probably won’t win any prizes because every post will teeming with facetious remarks about our kooky cousins up north, eh.

Speaking of kooky let’s talk about Flavia De Luce the protagonist/detective of Alan Bradley’s sophomore novel The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. Joining the ranks of oddball detectives such as Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple comes Flavia, a precocious 11 year old with an unhealthy interest in poisons. When the puppetmaster of a traveling show ends up providing a spectacular finale with his untimely demise Flavia is determined to find out who cut his strings, despite everyone’s best efforts to keep her out of the way.

This mystery was a little unconventional due to the fact that a dead body didn’t show up until about 150 pages in. And while the parlor scene (the one where Flavia reveals her brilliant deductions to the bemused town Inspector) was satisfying it wasn’t difficult to deduce who the culprit was. This book is more to be enjoyed for Bradley’s wonderfully irreverant protagonist. Flavia is cheeky and sneaky and extremely funny to watch in action, especially as she prepares a (non lethal) brew to inject in unsuspecting sister’s box of chocolates. I’m not a huge mystery devotee but I enjoyed this novel and will keep an eye on Flavia in the future.

P.S. Why are mystery authors always named Alan?

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I’m a sucker for cleverness, so perhaps it’s not surprising that this debut novel by Jedediah Berry made me swoon.  The Manual of Detection is filled with moments, both little and big, that display the author’s creativity and thoughtfulness. Let me be clear: this is not your average mystery novel.  Detection is a kind of cross-breed between mystery and surrealistic fantasy where the whodunit is less important than the way the story unfolds.  This change of pace can be nice if you’re looking for a different spin on your average noir, or off-putting if you prefer a more straightforward formula. I couldn’t put the book down and am looking forward to what this new author comes up with next.