The first thing that Flavia de Luce, Alan Bradley’s 11-year-old sleuth, does in his latest mystery is set a gypsy fortune teller’s tent on fire. It gets worse from there, but this is a Flavia de Luce novel. So there’s a nasty bludgeoning followed by a gruesomely inventive murder and the discovery of yet another corpse, all on the de Luce property. We can count on the undaunted Flavia to get to the bottom of these crimes.
Because she’s an expert in poisons, which she sometimes uses to get non-lethal revenge on her mean sisters Ophelia and Daphne, Flavia solves her crimes through chemistry. The title may refer to the persistent and unexpected smell of fish around both crime scenes and persons of interest. But as Flavia knows, a fishy smell doesn’t necessarily mean fish. And let’s not forget the pair of fox andirons that belonged to Flavia’s long-dead Mum, Harriet. They seem heavy enough to smash in a skull or two.
A Red Herring Without Mustard is as hilarious, gripping and sad as the previous books in this enjoyable series. The comedy comes from a little girl pulling one over on a bunch of clueless grown-ups as she pretends to be as clueless as they are. It’s gripping because it’s a well-paced murder mystery, and it’s sad because Flavia’s family is so messed up. Her sisters truly, deeply, inexplicably hate her. Her father, as inurned in grief over his wife as ever, now has the extra burden of trying to keep up Buckshaw, the de Luce’s great pile of a house, and the acreage it sits on. It’s gotten to the point where he’s auctioning off the family silver—another detail the reader should keep in mind,
Bradley displays his usual insight into Flavia’s character, though I’ve always suspected the books are from the point of view of an old lady recalling an unusually interesting childhood, like Mattie in True Grit. Bradley’s also good with his minor characters, a colorful bunch that includes Dogger, the shell-shocked factotum; Mrs. Mullet, the de Luces’ voluble, no-nonsense cook; and Inspector Hewitt, the stoic detective who’ll never admit how much Flavia helps his cases. A Red Herring Without Mustard introduces the deeply troubled Bull family and Porcelain, the unstable granddaughter of the fortuneteller. The requisite, well, red herrings, are numerous enough to keep the reader guessing. Once again, Bradley succeeds. And so, of course, does Flavia.
Copyright 2011 BookPage Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2011 January #1
Oh, to be 11 again and pal around with irresistible wunderkind Flavia de Luce.
Upset at a fortuneteller's words, Flavia upends a candle and, whoosh, the gypsy's tent goes up in flames. Determined to atone, especially since Fenella Faa has confided that years ago Flavia's father, the Colonel, once drove her and her husband off his Buckshaw estate, Flavia invites her onto the property, where she's soon attacked. And she's not the only one. Brookie Harewood, whom Flavia found fiddling around with Buckshaw antique fire irons in the library in the dead of night, is soon poked dead by a de Luce sterling-silver lobster fork on the estate's Trafalgar lawn. Determined to resolve these troubles and win the esteem of Inspector Hewitt, Flavia springs into full detecting mode, assaying chemicals in her laboratory, sidling up to suspects and making leading remarks, finding then losing Fenella's granddaughter Porcelain, reconsidering the claims of a certain Mrs. Bull about a gypsy stealing her child, sorting through an antiques scam, and researching the proclivities of the Hobblers, a mostly defunct religious sect. There's time left over, of course, to bedevil Daffy and Feely, her older sisters, and win the heart of everyone who's followed her earlier escapades (The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, 2010, etc.).
A splendid romp through 1950s England led by the world's smartest and most incorrigible preteen.Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
The 11-year-old sleuth with a penchant for chemistry and a knack for discovering corpses triumphantly returns in this third installment of Bradley's award-winning mystery series (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie; The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag), once again finding herself in the middle of a murder investigation. The novel opens with the quintessential church fete in the English village of Bishop's Lacey. An old, cantankerous gypsy reads Flavia's palm, and her prognostications prove lethal. When local layabout and all-around shifty character Brookie Harewood is found murdered, what's a child prodigy to do? Flavia's deceased mother, Harriet, plays a part in this tale, as does the unsolved disappearance of a village baby who went missing years ago. VERDICT Whether battling with her odious sisters or verbally sparing with the long-suffering Inspector Hewitt, our cheeky heroine is a delight. Full of pithy dialog and colorful characters, this series would appeal strongly to fans of Dorothy Sayers, Gladys Mitchell, and Leo Bruce as well as readers who like clever humor mixed in with their mysteries. [Library marketing; see Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/10.]--Amy Nolan, St. Joseph P.L., MI[Page 68]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In Bradley's outstanding third Flavia de Luce mystery set in post-WWII rural England (after 2010's The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag), precocious 11-year-old Flavia de Luce and her family pursue their different interests. Flavia's widowed father, Col. Haviland de Luce, has his philately; 17-year-old sister Ophelia ("Feely"), her music; and 13-year-old sister Daphne ("Daffy"), her books. Flavia's escape is the old, elaborately equipped chemistry lab installed by her late great-uncle, Tarquin de Luce, in their Buckshaw estate. Flavia's discovery of an old Gypsy woman who's been attacked in her wagon sends the girl off on an investigation that will reveal more of Buckshaw's secrets as well as new information about Harriet, the mother Flavia never knew. In this marvelous blend of whimsy and mystery, Flavia manages to operate successfully in the adult world of crimes and passions while dodging the childhood pitfalls set by her sisters. (Feb.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC