A Red Herring Without Mustard

Have you read any of the Flavia De Luce books? You must. If you’ve never heard of them, allow me to introduce you.

The Flavia De Luce books currently consist of 4 books. I just finished the third one, A Red Herring Without Mustard. Flavia De Luce is the most delightful character I have come across in a long time and I just can’t get enough of her. She’s an 11-year-old chemistry whiz with a passion for solving crimes, which is lucky because she stumbles upon an awful lot of dead bodies for someone so young.

The third book opens with Flavia getting her fortune read by an old gypsy woman, a decidely un-Flavia activity. She ends up burning the gypsy’s tent down and offers her some part of Buckshaw (her home) to bring her caravan so that she can rest. Hours later she finds the gypsy woman beaten unconscious and so begins our mystery. Who would want to do this to an old woman? Who else knew she was here? Did it have anything to do with the disappearance of a local child a few years earlier?

As always Alan Bradley has gifted us with a plethora of sinister and hilarious characters in addition to the stock characters that inhabit Buckshaw and Bishop’s Lacey (the nearby town) but Bradley also added something different to this third installment: vulnerability. Flavia was always tortured by her older sisters, Feely and Daffy before and she gave it right back, but in this book you get the feeling that she’s starting to be upset by it. And that she’s really starting to miss and wonder about her mother who died when she was a year old.

In addition to being good old fashioned mysteries, set in a ramshackle old English house, these books are really funny. I had a smirk on my face the whole time I was reading. I burned through this one quickly too – Bradley leaves just enough of a teaser at the end of each chapter that you have to carry on.

If I didn’t want the whole set of books to match (I got the first two as paperbacks) I would run out tomorrow and buy the fourth: I’m Half Sick of Shadows.

I will just have to content myself with telling you about them in the hopes that you fall in love with Flavia and Buckshaw just as easily as I did. For your records the first two books are: The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie and The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag.

Stars: 4.5

Grade: A-