Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review: A Red Herring Without Mustard

  • Author: Alan Bradley
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Feb 8 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385665865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385665865

From Goodreads:

Award-winning author Alan Bradley returns with another beguiling novel starring the insidiously clever and unflappable eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce. The precocious chemist with a passion for poisons uncovers a fresh slew of misdeeds in the hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey—mysteries involving a missing tot, a fortune-teller, and a corpse in Flavia’s own backyard.

Flavia had asked the old Gypsy woman to tell her fortune, but never expected to 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 had 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? Had it something to do with the weird sect who met at the river to practice their secret rites? While still pondering the possibilities, Flavia stumbles upon another corpse—that of a notorious layabout who had been caught prowling about the de Luce’s drawing room.

Pedaling Gladys, her faithful bicycle, across the countryside in search of clues to both crimes, Flavia uncovers some odd new twists. Most intriguing is her introduction to an elegant artist with a very special object in her possession—a portrait that sheds light on the biggest mystery of all: Who is Flavia?

As the red herrings pile up, Flavia must sort through clues fishy and foul to untangle dark deeds and dangerous secrets.

My Review:

My mind was a whirl.  Heigh-ho! I thought.  What a jolly sport is the world of Flavia de Luce.
p. 152

Even Flavia de Luce knows what a wonderful world she inhabits.  I was completely delighted by the first book in this series: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  Totally mesmerized by the second book: The Weed That Strings The Hangman's Bag.  And once again I am completely enchanted by the wonderful Flavia in A Red Herring Without Mustard.

Alan Bradley's writing is amazing.  I know Flavia is only eleven years old but she is wise beyond her years and wickedly clever.  She lives in an crumbling manor house with her father, two scheming older sisters and the ever helpful Dogger.  The novel like its predecessors, is set in post World War II England.  This world is everything that is wonderful about England....small villages, the countryside and gypsies! The novel completely revolves around the wonderful Flavia, her thoughts and her incredible adventures.  She has such an inquisitive mind and is such a brave and daring young girl!  And she possesses a brilliant mind that devours chemistry.  There is even an abandoned chemical laboratory in their manor house where she concocts poisons to terrorize her sisters with and help her to solve the mysteries and deaths that somehow manage to show up at her doorstop! 

With each outing, I wonder more as to whether her mother Harriet has really died.  The sorrow over the death of Harriet sets the tone for the house and in particular for her father, who is there but not really there.  Flavia has had to learn how to survive without a mother all these years and you can feel the depths of this loss in A Red Herring Without Mustard.

I cannot wait for the next book in the series:  I Am Half-Sick of Shadows which will be released January 31, 2012. 

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