Flavia de Luce is back and better than ever. Actually, I can say that I enjoyed this second book even more than the first The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie because the mystery was very good in this second novel and Flavia really had to use her powers of deductive reasoning to find the culprit and answer all the questions raised.
Something as simple as the breakdown of a van was the catalyst for involving the people of the hamlet of Bishop's Lacy in murder. This second story in the series involves the entire population of the village when the famous puppeteer agrees to put on a show in the church hall to pay the expenses for fixing his van. The world of Flavia de Luce in 1950's England is once more brought brilliantly to life by Alan Bradley. All of the characters we met were very interesting for me and the sheer number introduced made the solving of this mystery very much harder than in the first novel. There were hidden things going on in the background of this small community which came to light as Flavia and the police began to investigate who had committed this murder.
I really enjoy the way Bradley has written the character of Flavia here. There is more humor in this book than in the first and it really solidified my liking for Flavia as a person. In all honesty I must say that I had never noticed before how many of the worlds most infamous (or should that be famous?) poisoners had names beginning with the letter "C". Now that's the kind of interactions Bradley makes his character have with the reader that allows me to think that Flavia could walk into this room right now and I could hold a conversation with her. She and I would get along just fine. Mysteries are a passion of mine also, and poison has always been my "weapon of choice", so to speak. She could run rings around me when it comes to knowledge of chemistry and all it's wonders, but otherwise, she's your average highly intelligent 11 year old girl who solves murder mysteries without benefit of all the information the police have.
In all seriousness, there is nothing "average" about this book. Flavia is a delight, the pages are filled with both humor and pathos, the mystery is well constructed and multi-layered, and the author has a way of capturing my imagination so that I feel totally involved and drawn into the story. Now the only question is how long we have to wait for the third book. I'm also of the opinion that if this author starts a completely different series, I will be right there waiting to buy my copy. Yes, he's that good.