I have finished the 36th book for the book challenge. It was The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley.
Flavia de Luce is fresh off her discovery of her first dead body and looking for new adventures. She happens upon a crying woman in the St. Tancred’s church graveyard and a van that has the legend “Porson’s Puppets.” She learns from the woman that her name is Nialla and the van has broken down and she is the assistant to the puppeteer who has gone to look for someone to fix the van. The vicar comes along and is delighted to see the puppet van. He knows the puppeteer from the BBC television show The Magic Kingdom and Snoddy the Squirrel. Rupert Porson, the puppeteer, shows up and the vicar makes some calls to get the van fixed and to let Rupert and Nialla camp in Jubilee field on Gordon and Grace Inglesby’s property, but also asks if Rupert would put on two puppet shows at the church for the village. Rupert agrees since they have to stay anyway to get the van fixed. Flavia goes with Rupert and Nialla to Jubilee field to get them settled in their camping area. Rupert goes off and disappears. Flavia goes looking for him and finds him on Gibbet Hill in a clearing with Gordon Inglesby. It is clear that he already knows Gordon. And it is also clear that Gordon is growing marijuana and that Rupert is smoking it for his medical condition of his stunted leg from polio. Flavia returns to the Inglesby farm and goes into the dovecote where she sees Grace who has made a sort of shrine on the upper tier of the dovecote to her dead son Robin who was found hanged five years ago in Gibbet Wood. Grace has never been right since Robin’s death.
Flavia also meets a German prisoner who works on the Inglesby farm by the name of Dieter. He was a German pilot who loved all things English who was shot down over England during the war and has been working for the Inglesbys ever since.
The puppet shows are scheduled for Saturday afternoon and evening. The Saturday afternoon show is mostly for the children of the village. It is spectacular. Flavia attends it. Then Flavia and her family attend the Saturday evening show. It too is the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Just as the Giant Galligantus is ready to fall, instead Rupert comes crashing down dead onto the stage. He has been electrocuted. Murdered. The police were there watching the show so they make everyone stay and give statements. Flavia sees how Rupert was electrocuted. The vicar’s bicycle clip was used with wires that had been stripped bare and then linked to the lever that operated Galligantus. When Rupert went to pull the lever, he was electrocuted. But who could have done this? It is up to Flavia to find out.
Once again, Flavia investigates the various people that Rupert knew–Gordon Inglesby, Grace Inglesby, the vicar, Mad Meg, the vicar’s wife, Dieter, Sally Straw, Mutt Willmott his producer–to find the murder, and gets a little sidetracked by poisons along the way, of course.
This book is full of humor and suspense and an all-around good time. Flavia de Luce is a marvelous companion to have in your library.