Skip to content

Book Review – A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

SynopsisAward-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 Bishops Laceymysteries involving a
missing tot, a fortune-teller, and a corpse in Flavias own backyard.

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 corpsethat of
a notorious layabout who had been caught prowling about the de Luces
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 possessiona 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.

First Line“You frighten me,” the Gypsy said.

Random QuoteHe knocked his rib cage with a clenched fist and forced a cough that, since I had done it so often myself, didn’t fool me for an instant.  Neither did his fake gamekeeper dialect.

Review:  I love Flavia de Luce and Alan Bradley for creating her (and for having great titles).  I think the primary thing I like about her is how very much she reminds me of Harriet the Spy, one of my all-time favorite characters as a kid and a book I read over and over again.  Throw Harriet down in 1950’sish Britain and she’d be Flavia de Luce.

The other thing I like about this look is the way Mr. Bradley takes a fairly typical British mystery setting/theme and plays with it in lots of fun ways.  Putting a precocious eleven year old in the midst of the mayhem is brilliant.

Gypsy Caravans – Date Unknown (image source)

 A Red Herring Without Mustard is the third in the series and I liked it much more than the second.  The plot involving gypsies and mysteries involving old legends, religious cults, and chicanery of all kinds just really pleased me.  I have loved stories about gypsies and gypsy caravans since the first time I read The Wind in the Willows and Mr. Toad bought a gypsy caravan (to hilarious purpose).  Putting traveling people still roaming about the countryside in caravans is irresistible.

There are plenty of twists and turns throughout to keep the reader reading and amused.  The reminders of my own childhood reading world and the eensiest touch of Agatha Christie combine to create a delightful experience!

Publishing Information:  Delacorte Press – February 8, 2011

FTC Disclosure:  Borrowed in e-book format from the Berkeley Public Library (one of the best places in the universe)


Reading Challenges:  This was completed in late December 2011 so counts towards none of these.

Published inBooks

Comments are closed.