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Alan Bradley

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

Alan Bradley The Weed That Strings The Hangman's Bag
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Biographical note:

Alan Bradley is the internationally bestselling author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. His first Flavia de Luce novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, the Dilys Winn Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Agatha Award, the Macavity Award, and the Barry Award, and was nominated for the Anthony Award. His other Flavia de Luce novels are The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, A Red Herring Without Mustard, and I Am Half-Sick of Shadows.

Country of final manufacture:

US

Excerpt from book:

Chapter One


I was lying dead in the churchyard. An hour had crept by since the mourners had said their last sad farewells.

At twelve o’clock, just at the time we should otherwise have been sitting down to lunch, there had been the departure from Buckshaw: my polished rosewood coffin being brought out of the drawing room, carried slowly down the broad stone steps to the driveway, and slid with heartbreaking ease into the open door of the waiting hearse, crushing beneath it a little bouquet of wildflowers that had been laid gently inside by one of the grieving villagers.

Then there had been the long drive down the avenue of chestnuts to the Mulford Gates, whose rampant griffins looked away as we passed, though whether in sadness or in apathy I would never know.

Dogger, Father’s devoted jack-of-all-trades, had paced in measured step alongside the slow hearse, his head bowed, his hand resting lightly on its roof, as if to shield my remains from something that only he could see. At the gates, one of the undertaker’s mutes had finally coaxed him, by using hand signals, into a hired motorcar.

And so they had brought me to the village of Bishop’s Lacey, passing somberly through the same green lanes and dusty hedgerows I had bicycled every day when I was alive.

At the heaped-up churchyard of St. Tancred’s, they had taken me gently from the hearse and borne me at a snail’s pace up the path beneath the limes. Here, they had put me down for a moment in the new-mown grass.

Then had come the service at the gaping grave, and there had been a note of genuine grief in the voice of the vicar as he pronounced the traditional words.

It was the first time I’d heard the Order for the Burial of the Dead from this vantage point. We had attended last year, with Father, the funeral of old Mr. Dean, the village greengrocer. His grave, in fact, was just a few yards from where I was presently lying. It had already caved in, leaving not much more than a rectangular depression in the grass that was, more often than not, filled with stagnant rainwater.

My oldest sister, Ophelia, said it collapsed because Mr. Dean had been resurrected and was no longer bodily present, while Daphne, my other sister, said it was because he had plummeted through into an older grave whose occupant had disintegrated.

I thought of the soup of bones below: the soup of which I was about to become just another ingredient.

Flavia Sabina de Luce, 1939–1950, they would cause to be carved on my gravestone, a modest and tasteful gray marble thing with no room for false sentiments.

Pity. If I’d lived long enough, I’d have left written instructions calling for a touch of Wordsworth:

A maid whom there were none to praise

And very few to love.

And if they’d balked at that, I’d have left this as my second choice:

Truest hearts by deeds unkind

To despair are most inclined.

Only Feely, who had played and sung them at the piano, would recognize the lines from Thomas Campion’s Third Book of Airs, and she would be too consumed by guilty grief to tell anyone.

My tho“Flavia is incisive, cutting and hilarious . . . one of the most remarkable creations in recent literature.”—USA Today

“Utterly beguiling . . . wicked wit . . . The real delight here is [Flavia’s] droll voice and the eccentric cast.”—People (four stars)

“Bradley takes everything you expect and subverts it, delivering a smart, irreverent, unsappy mystery.”  —Entertainment Weekly
 
“A pitch-perfect performance that surpasses an already worthy debut.”—Houston Chronicle

“Discovering Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books is several steps beyond pleasure—it’s a sheer delight.”—Winston-Salem Journal
 
“Wickedly funny.”—The Times-Picayune


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