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review 2017-08-11 16:24
"The Weed That Strings The Hangman's Bag - Flavia de Luce #2" by Alan Bradley
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag - Alan Bradley

This is the second book about eleven-year-old Flavia De Luce, who was first introduced in "The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie", where she put her considerable talents to work in solving a murder her father had been accused of.

 

In this instalment, Flavia becomes involved with a travelling puppeteer who has a show on the BBC, a shocking murder and ripples from the death of young boy, alone in the woods.

 

It's a decent mystery in its own right, steeped in the atmosphere of rural England after the Second World War, but what makes it exceptional is Flavia De Luce herself.

She is a wonderfully wrought character: dauntless, clever, manipulative, and eccentric in the great English aristo tradition. She is fascinated by and skilled in making poisons. She knows how to get people to tell things they would never otherwise reveal and she is relentless in her quest to find out who did what and why.

 

All this makes her rather intimidating. Flavia knows this of course. At one point, when she shows too much insight into the affairs of a young woman she is helping, the young woman points it out to her:

“You are terrifying,” Nialla said. “You really are. Do you know that?” We were sitting on a slab tomb in the churchyard as I waited for the sun to dry my feverish face. Nialla put away her lipstick and rummaged in her bag for a comb. “Yes,” I said, matter-of-factly. It was true—and there was no use denying it.'

During the denouement, Flavia reveals a crucial piece of information to the Detective Inspector debriefing her. When he turns to his team, demanding to know why they didn't know this,  the response is:

"With respect, sir." Sergeant Woolmer ventured, "it could be because we're not Miss De Luce

For all her ferocious intellect and startling precocity,  she is still an eleven-year-old girl. She is observant enough to uncover an affair but innocent enough not to be entirely sure exactly what is involved in such an undertaking.

 

She is also a lonely girl without enough love in her life. Her elder sisters treat her badly. Her father is distant, repressed and as obsessed with stamps as Flavia is with poisons. Her mother is dead and her only connection to her is to sit in the Rolls she owned or to ride the bike she used, which she has rechristened Gladys and sometimes treats as if it were sentient.

 

Flavia is not a girl who is trying to be older. Above all, she seems to be trying just to be herself which she does with great self-assurance. When she turns up late (again) and her father describes her as "Utterly unreliable:" she thinks to herself

Of course I was! It was one of the things I loved most about myself. Eleven-year-olds are supposed to be unreliable.

 

Flavia knows that she is willing to overstep the bounds of politeness and perhaps even decency, to get the infomation she wants but she's reconciled to that aspect of herself. She says:

Sometimes I hated myself. But not for long.

This was a delightful read and a pleasing sequel. I will be back for more.

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review 2016-11-22 19:48
The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
The Hangman's Daughter - Lee Chadeayne,Oliver Pötzsch

Set in 1659, in the small town of Schongau in Bavaria, Germany, more than one child has been murdered and they bear an unusual mark on their shoulders. The town’s hangman, Jakob Kuisl, is ordered to torture a confession out of the town midwife, Marta, who is suspected of witchcraft. Jakob doesn’t believe it and starts to dig into the mystery, finding far more devilish behavior than he expected.

I really enjoyed this novel. The mix of murder mystery, historical fiction, and the suspicion of witchcraft really grabbed a hold of me. I had never thought too much of who, in general, was in charge of executions, torturing, and other punishments (like cutting off a hand) and this book really opened my eyes to how Bavaria handled that. It was a family trait, the hangmen in general considered to be lowly men. It was near impossible to marry out of the trade and so hangmen families kept in touch throughout the area, often arranging marriages among their children. This aspect of the book really fascinated me and Kuisl (which rhymes with ‘weasel’ so it’s just fun to say) was a great character through which to get to know more about hangmen in Bavaria in the 1650s.

Jakob’s daughter, Magdelena, is close to marrying age. She’s clever and rather independent, her father’s station, lowly but untouchable, gives her some protection for going about unattended. Now my one little quibble with this book is the title, The Hangman’s Daughter. Really, this book is about Jakob and not about Magdelena. Indeed, she has a rather minor role. While the women are interesting in this book, they don’t get the spotlight and almost never call the shots. Yes, the title did pull me in, but it is also a bit misleading.

Other than that tiny criticism, I found it difficult to put this book down. Simon is the other main character. He’s the son of the town physician, but unlike his father, he attended a medical university. He’s fascinated by Jakob’s book collection, which contains books that traditional physicians reject. Simon doesn’t believe that bleeding a patient does any good, unlike his father. This dichotomy of what was considered true medical knowledge was on good display with Simon and his father.

Of course, then we have the midwife, Marta, who’s been accused of witchcraft. Early on, we know that one of the prominent town politicians doesn’t believe she is a witch but he feels Marta must be sacrificed to avoid a break out of hysteria, such as there was 70 years prior that resulted in so many being tortured and burned at the stake. Jakob, as the town’s hangman, is in a very difficult position. If he doesn’t carry out his sworn duty to the town (to torture the midwife), he could be dismissed, which would result in he and his family being turned out of the town. I really felt for Jakob! He had plenty of hard decisions to make, but once he set on a course he carried it out to the best of his ability. Nearly from the beginning, there was plenty of tension in the story because Jakob had only so much time to find the real culprit.

There was more than one piece to this mystery. Jakob and Simon have their hands full trying to get information out of townsfolk and orphan children even as they hunt down the supposed devil. Magdelena adds a few bits of knowledge here and there but is mostly a love interest. The scenes with Marta were the most touching and also chilling. Jakob does his best to minimize the damage, but he can’t be seen assisting her or even holding back. Towards the end, I was biting my nails as Jakob and Simon raced against a clock to save not only Marta but some of the remaining orphan children. The ending was quite satisfying and I was very pleased to learn there are several more books in this series. The translation was quite good. There was only one or two instances where I wondered if such a modern word was the right translation, but these few instances did not detract from the story at all.

I accessed a free copy of this audiobook through the Kindle Unlimited program.

The Narration:  Grover Gardner made a great Jakob Kuisl. There were plenty of German words and names in this book and he did a splendid job in pronouncing them. His female voices were pretty good as well. His ability to imbue a character with emotions was put on display with Jakob’s scenes with Marta. 

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text 2016-11-06 13:07
October Wrap-Up & November TBR
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The Illustrated Edition - J.K. Rowling,Jim Kay
We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson,Jonathan Lethem
The Monstrumologist - Rick Yancey
Faint of Heart - Jeff Strand
Reaper Man - Terry Pratchett
Interim Errantry: Three Tales of the Young Wizards - Diane Duane
Death Note: Black Edition, Volume 1 - Taskeshi Obata,Tsugumi Ohba
The Cater Street Hangman - Anne Perry

Books Read: 9

 

5 Stars: 2

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Illustrated Edition)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

 

4 Stars: 3

The Monstrumologist

Faint of Heart

Reaper Man

 

3 Stars: 3

Interim Errantry

Death Note: Black Edition: Volume 1

The Cater Street Hangman

 

2 Stars: 0

 

Books I regret spending money on: 0

 

Reviews Written: 10

 

Reviews I need to write: 4

Interim Errantry

The House of the Seven Gables

Bourne Ultimatum

American Gods

 

November TBR

With only two months left until this year's reading challenge comes to a close, I've selected ten books that I want to finish before the New Year. If I read more than these ten, that's fine, but I do want to finish these books: NeuroTribes, A Storm of Swords , A Feast for Crows, A Dance With Dragons, Anansi Boys, Equal Rites, Moving Pictures, Small Gods, and Mort. I'm in the process of finishing up Neverwhere and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Macabre Tales from the Halloween Bingo, but once they are completed, I'm jumping right in to A Storm of Swords.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-10-18 17:37
The Cater Street Hangman: Genre:Mystery
The Cater Street Hangman - Anne Perry

There was a little too much focusing on dresses and who was in love with who, but I went into this book expecting it, so it didn't annoy me that much. I really liked the emphasis on the expectations for men and women during that time. Charlotte came across as a bit too naive to believe, but I liked how she pushed back against what was expected of her. The mystery was interesting and while I wasn't surprised with the revealing of the killer, there were practically neon arrows pointing to the culprit, the reason annoyed me a great deal and affected my rating quite a bit.

 

Mrs. Prebble could have had any number of reasons to kill those girls, it's mentioned throughout the book how the standards for women are much different then those for men. Instead Anne Perry chose to take the path so many of these type of books choose, she made Mrs. Pebble the killer because she was gay. I would like, just once, an LGBTQA character who doesn't struggle with their identity and is perfectly content with who they are; they don't go on a murderous rampage, kill themselves, or get murdered by somebody else. Is that too much to ask? I like the time period, but I really hate how LGBTQA characters are handled by authors in this time period. It's fiction, can't there be at least one happy ending?

(spoiler show)

 

 

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text 2016-08-31 21:11
August Reading Roundup
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy - Eric Metaxas
Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII - Linda Porter
Jane the Quene (The Seymour Saga) (Volume 1) - Janet A. Wertman
Thunderstruck - Erik Larson
Jasper: Book Two of The Tudor Trilogy - Tony Riches
The Hangman's Daughter - Lee Chadeayne,Oliver Pötzsch
The Northern Queen - Kelly Evans
The Heretics of De'Ath (The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage Book 1) - Howard of Warwick

Not a bad month of reading for August. Especially Bonhoeffer. Amazing book. Inspiring person. I didn't write a review of this book, but I have thought about some aspect of it every day since I finished it & have ordered Cost of Discipleship.

 

The Hangman's Daughter was a fun group read for More Historical than Fiction

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