A Red Herring Without Mustard: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley

I had already learned that sisterhood, like Loch Ness, has things that lurk unseen beneath the surface, but I think it was only now that I realized of all the invisible strings that tied the three of us together, the dark ones were the strongest.

Have you met sleuth Flavia de Luce? She is cunning, witty, sharp as a whip and a bit of a mad scientist. She lives in the crumbling old estate Buckshaw with her father and two sisters where she concocts experiments in an old laboratory. Her two evil sisters are to be found often reading, playing instruments or torturing Flavia. They might tie her up in the cellar, but she’ll get back at them in her own manner. Once she had her revenge by distilling the essence of poison out of a plant, mixing it with a melted lipstick and then molding the lipstick back into its original shape for her sister to use. Yea, shes that brilliant. Did I mention she is 11-years-old?

I have often heard people call Flavia “unrealistic” and complain about her being so darn smart (jealousy I tell you!) But really, did you complain when Peter, Edmund, Lucy and Susan walked through the wardrobe into Narnia? NO! You just sat there wishing that a lamppost would appear in YOUR forest. So stop complaining. Books don’t need to be realistic, its why we love them.

Anyway, back to the Herring without Mustard. The third in the Flavia de Luce novels is yet another murder mystery. It starts when Flavia has her fortune told by a gypsy and accidentally sets her tent on fire. She is only 11 after all, accidents happen. In her remorse and I suspect, for a bit of fun, she invites the gypsy to come rest on the Buckshaw estate for the evening. Later that night in a fit of wakefulness Flavia travels out to the Gypsy’s caravan and finds her bleeding to death. Thankfully, the gypsy lives but the mystery continues.

Don’t be disappointed, I did say murder mystery. Not all the characters in this story are as lucky as the gypsy. A local vagabond dies shortly thereafter and Flavia is once again pedaling Gladys, her trusty bicycle, around the countryside in search of clues.

This book will not shake your soul or change your life but it will make you laugh, chuckle and turn the pages to see what scrapes she gets into next. I always enjoy my time with Flavia, I think you would too.

(Recommendation: If you haven’t read Flavia’s exploits before, start with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and then The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag. )

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