Book Review

Review: A Red Herring without Mustard by Alan Bradley

a red herring without mustard

Number of pages: 370

Format: hardcover and paperback

Publisher: DoubleDay Canada

Rating: ages 18 and up

Genre: detective mystery

Notes: book 3 of the Flavia de Luce series


Nothing dull ever comes to Buckshaw as Flavia de Luce always finds something to amuse herself. From seeking vengeance upon her sisters to conducting chemical experiments, and solving mysteries at Bishop’s Lacey. This time her adventure begins with a village fete and a gypsy who, after foretelling Flavia’s fortune, her bloody body is found later in a caravan. Who ever wanted to harm a gypsy fortune-teller? Could it have anything to do with the child abduction from years back? Only our 11-year-old heroine can dig out the answers as she unleashes her gifts to sort out clues to discover the fishy and foul secrets at Bishop’s Lacey.

My Thoughts:

Like the Harry Potter series, Alan Bradley’s books becomes thicker as Flavia de Luce stumbles upon more mysteries, each complicated and entangled with darker deeds than the next. But Flavia finds that she has more on her hands than an intriguing murder mystery. Her family’s finances become a burden in Buckshaw as her father sells the de Luce possessions one by one to pay off his late wife’s debts after her terrible mountaineering accident. As Flavia watches her father strain with their financial woes, she becomes more aware of her role in the de Luce family and wonders about the future of Buckshaw mansion. More than once, she questions the relationship with her sisters, Ophelia and Daphne and how it has changed since childhood.

Thoughts of the family and their future together cross her mind, but Flavia finds a nice distraction to take her away from her personal life for a moment. A distraction that deals with the near-death discovery of a gypsy who, days earlier foretold the girl of a shocking vision. Like a foxhound, Flavia is on the hunt as she stops at nothing until the killer is found, and as she searches for hidden clues that include cod-liver oil, firedogs, a crystal globe, and a lobster pick, she manages to find that the murder ties to the past about a missing baby.

11-year-old Flavia, a young chemist and an amateur detective uses her wit to gather information from the characters of Bishop Lacey. But on several occasions, we also see that the grown-ups and elders of the village confide to her about their own secrets. Such as Dr. Kissing from The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, who confesses his discovery of a past investigation and undeniably hid it to himself to avoid trouble, “There is also the undeniable fact that when one reaches a certain age, one hesitates to take on a new cargo of trouble.” But after all these years, Dr. Kissing no longer feels guilty as he discloses his secret to Flavia, “That is why I have kept it to myself. But oddly enough, it is also the reason that I am now telling you.” It is almost as if he knew what Flavia was up to and will use the information to her advantage.

As she hunts down for answers to find the truth behind the attempted murder and the missing baby, Flavia proves once again how resourceful she is using her chemical knowledge, sharp hearing and astute observations on crime scenes that even put the constabulary to shame. More than once, she has pointed the Inspector and his team in the right direction as she hides clues from her own discoveries until she finds the truth at her own accord. I see a bright future in Flavia de Luce’s career, as she will undoubtedly make a remarkable chemist and a consulting detective, whichever comes first.

My verdict: 3 hoots out of 5.


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