A Red Herring Without Mustard
A Flavia de Luce Novel
Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House, 2011
From the back of the book, “Award winning author Alan Bradley returns with another beguiling novel starring the insidiously clever and unflappable eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce. In the hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia had asked a Gypsy woman to tell her fortune—ever expecting to later stumble across the poor soul, bludgeoned in the wee hours in her own caravan. Was this an act of retribution by those convinced that the soothsayer abducted a local child years ago? Certainly Flavia understands the bliss of settling scores; revenge is a delightful pastime when one has two odious older sisters. But how could this crime be connected to the missing baby? As the red herrings pile up, Flavia must sort through clues fishy and foul to untangle dark deeds and dangerous secrets.”
So I’m back with another Flavia novel – and it was a good one. Flavia once again seeks revenge on her awful older sisters after they play a cruel trick on her – actually two cruel tricks but true to her better nature she apologizes for it. Later, during her investigation of the attack on the Gypsy she discovers a murder, a fraud scheme and more about her long dead mother, Harriet. Her father remains mostly absent during all of these events, spending his time with his stamp collection and worrying about bankruptcy. In the absence of her father, Flavia rides Gladys, her trusty mount (it’s a bicycle) all around Bishop’s Lacey interviewing suspects, sneaking into people’s houses and stealing secrets.
This is the third in the series and it is able to stand alone. Although the previous incidents are mentioned briefly in the story, if this is the first of Flavia’s book you read, you’ll still be able to enjoy it. The mystery winds its way through the 1950s English countryside introducing the reader to new offbeat characters and fleshing out some familiar ones. The violence takes place off stage, the attack and murder are well described but not in a gory manner; an odd religious cult is much discussed; Flavia loves to think about poisons and revenge, although she’d never actually go through with it (well, at least not the really bad stuff). She is smart, witty and not ashamed of her brains. She’s a great role model for middle-graders; mom wishes she had been around when she was growing up!
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