Title: A Red Herring Without Mustard
Author: Alan Bradley
Release Date: February 8, 2011
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Curled Up with a Good Book
Rating:4 out of 5
In this third installment of the Flavia de Luce series, the eleven-year-old chemist-turned-amateur sleuth is back again in all her glory. This time, Flavia has her fortune told by a Gypsy woman, then invites the woman to park her caravan near Buckshaw, the crumbling de Luce family home. When Flavia returns to check on the gypsy, she finds her attacked and unconscious, almost dead, which starts Flavia on another quest to solve a mystery.
Flavia de Luce is a heroine who engenders strong opinions. Those who enjoy these books absolutely adore the resolute and crafty eleven-year-old. They appreciate her ingenuity and utter lack of fear in delving into the deepest and darkest mysteries. But those that don’t find her charming really can’t stand her. They find her overly precocious and unbelievable, and don’t find Bradley’s books appealing. I am in the former camp. I love Flavia and look forward to her adventures, and therefore was excited to read A Red Herring Without Mustard.
In this novel, Flavia is as meddlesome as ever. She’s witty and irrepressible, vowing to get to the bottom of the mystery and finding herself embroiled in the middle of it every step of the way. Her relationship with her sisters continues to be adversarial, and it would be nice in future books if Flavia worked towards détente. They can only torture one another for so long before that begins to grate, and happily, Flavia seems to have taken the first steps towards that in A Red Herring Without Mustard. Flavia is a delight to read about, and, as always, the secondary cast of characters is well developed and happily eccentric.
The plot of A Red Herring Without Mustard ties in many different threads from smaller storylines through the novel. The central mystery is the attack on the gypsy woman, but this leads Flavia places she never would have imagined. From exploring the death of an infant years before to discovering the inner workings of a cult and finding out whether it has a presence in her town of Bishop’s Lacey, Bradley keeps Flavia extremely busy in this novel. The storyline of Flavia’s father’s increasing desperation in order to keep his family in their home, while subtle, is exceptionally well done. All in all, the novel keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end with its intricate plot.
These are not novels you necessarily need to read in order. All have the same basic premise and there are no spoilers or overarching mysteries from one book to another. It would be quite easy to start with A Red Herring Without Mustard, though this has a more complex plot than the previous two novels. If you haven’t given Flavia a try yet, pick up one of these books at your earliest convenience. You’ll discover your opinion on her quickly, and I hope you find yourself as charmed by Flavia de Luce as I am.