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A Red Herring Without Mustard – Alan Bradley – 9/10

“When I come to write my autobiography, I must remember to record the fact that a chicken-wire fence can be scaled by a girl in bare feet, but only by one who is willing to suffer the tortures of the damned to satisfy her curiosity”

In this third instalment of Flavia de Luce’s adventures, Flavia finds a gypsy of her acquaintance brutally attacked. No sooner has she helped the victim to hospital, than a second body of her acquaintance turns up on the family property. Her detective work is hindered by her devious sisters, a relative of the gypsy, and Inspector Hewitt, who as usual is not keen to be aided by an 11-year-old passionate chemist and sleuth.

I tore through The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, and this was no different. Flavia’s is such a refreshingly different world from the seedy dens of crime occupied by more modern sleuths; she is the youngest daughter of a widowed philatelist and lives with her family in a crumbling family pile in 1950s countryside England. Bradley puts so much effort into crafting Flavia that sometimes the story is more about her than the crime she’s trying to solve – but that’s just fine with me. The tale is always fairly light and fluffy and a very easy read (it kept me sane in Bangkok airport in the middle of a very long flight – so concentrated brainpower is clearly superfluous), and I would say it is suitable for all ages from Flavia’s own (11) to adult.

Flavia is a fabulous character but I’ve already raved about her in previous reviews. The way that Bradley is slowly doling out more and more character development for the minor characters across the successive books is excellent – this time we get a bit closer to Flavia’s father, much closer to her mother, and the personalities in the village are more memorable (and return from previous books).
“I remembered Father remarking once that if rudeness was not attributable to ignorance, it could be taken as a sure sign that one was speaking to a member of the aristocracy.”
“As any chemist worth her calcium chloride knows…”
“Who, after all, can carry out full-scale snoopage with a six-foot-something ex-prisoner of war dogging one’s every footstep?”
I have Flavia to thank for the idea to name my bicycle – Flavia flies around the countryside on her trusty steed Gladys, who undergoes regular anthropomorphisation. My own Cecily is pining for me at home in England.

Buy this and read it straight away. 
Additional info:
I bought this at Notting Hill Books and Comic Exchange.
Publisher: Orion Books, 389 pages (hardback)
Order this from Amazon* 
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link; proceeds go towards giveaways.

11 thoughts on “A Red Herring Without Mustard – Alan Bradley – 9/10”

  1. What a compelling and hilarious quote to use at the top of the review. You’ve convinced me – I’ve ordered the first one from the library. Thanks for the tip!

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