In A Red Herring Without Mustard, Flavia sets fire to a gypsy's fortune-telling tent (accidently, of course) at the church fête. She then feels compelled to invite gypsy, Fenella, to rest and park her caravan and horse in an area of the Buckshaw estate called the Palings. Awhile later, Fenella is found beaten and Flavia wonders if this could be connected to a missing child long ago, which Fenella has been accused of taking. When another body is found on the grounds of Buckshaw and Fenella's granddaughter shows up, red herrings abound as Flavia is pulled in many directions. She'll need all of her wits and really focus if she hopes to uncover long kept secrets and mysterious past events.
I loved this book. The first one is still my favourite, but this one is a close second. The story is filled with interesting characters and fascinating information about the family and the Hobblers, a religious group in the area. The whole thing is just wonderful. Bradley fills in new readers regarding the family and past events in other books rather nicely while keeping it fresh for fans of the series by adding new background details.
Flavia is as curious, delightful and charming as ever and still obsessed with poisons and her chemistry lab. Her trusty sidekick/bicycle is once again by her side. As before, she's warring with her sisters, Daphne (Daffy) and Ophelia (Feely), both of whom get under Flavia's skin. She's joined other familiar characters like her father; Dogger, the houseman; Mrs. Mullet, the cook; Inspector Hewitt; and a host of new characters. These new characters: Brookie, Colin, Fenella, Porcelain and others, are wonderful additions and make the story so much fun to read.
In this book, we get to see a new side of Flavia as she seems about to make a friend her own age, when Porcelain, Fenella's granddaughter enters the story. You'll just have to read the book to see how she makes out with that possibility. Bradley also introduces another side of Flavia's father, a gentler, softer side that even surprises Flavia. I loved both of these developments.
While Flavia is a huge attraction in this book for me, it's not just that character that draws me in and keeps my interest. This story is humorous and so intelligently written, I can't help but keep coming back for more.
This is the third book in the Flavia series. The author references the other cases/books, but not so much that this book couldn't stand alone. Of course, I might be a little biased because I've read the first two.
It always surprises me after a family row to find that the world outdoors has remained the same. While the passions and feelings that accumulate like noxious gases inside a house seem to condense and cling to the walls and ceilings like old smoke, the out-of-doors is different.
sporran (page 50): pouch worn with a kilt
lorgnette (page 204): glasses with handle, opera glasses
chancel (page 271): area of a church near the altar
gorgon (page 329): Greek monster or terrifying woman
Highly recommended. I can't wait for the next instalment of the Flavia de Luce series, Seeds of Antiquity.
My reviews for the other books in the series:
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
For more information about this book or to take a peek inside, please visit the Random House website.
If you love Flavia as I do, you might want to check out the The Flavia Fan Club. It contains lots of author information as well as updates on future books.
I'd like to thank those nice people at Random House Canada for this review copy.
A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley, Doubleday Canada (Random House), ©2011. ISBN 9780385665865(Hardcover), 370p.