A Red Herring Without Mustard

By Alan Bradley

The Short Take:

Another thoroughly enjoyable Flavia de Luce mystery novel by the ever-entertaining Alan Bradley. This is his third entry and I do believe they just keep getting better. I can barely stand the wait for the next one.


Bradley writes an all-ages book (well, maybe for 10 or 12 and above, depending on the kid) that any adult can thoroughly enjoy. Flavia is smart, energetic,inquisitive, and determined. She also has a passion for chemistry, which plays at least a minor role in every mystery she solves. Who could ask for a better role model for girls?

In addition, the mystery plot has as many red herrings and complexities as you’ll find in any adult crime novel. But if also features a sweet and engaging innocence, largely due to Bradley’s brilliant choice of 1950s rural England as the setting. Murder and mayhem might take place, but it’s never quite what you think.

Flavia’s family — a distant father who lives for his stamps, two older sisters who pick on Flavia relentlessly, a missing/dead mother (I continue to hold out hope), and an enigmatic family retainer — bring wonderful texture to these books, from their fascinating personalities to the decaying estate they call home.

If only Nancy Drew had been a quarter this good! An eighth!

A Little Plot:

After accidently burning down a gypsy’s fortune telling tent, Flavia guides the older woman’s caravan to a secluded place on her family’s estate as a way of saying “sorry.” Unfortunately the gypsy is badly beaten and, if Flavia had not come upon her, would have died.

Distraught, Flavia tries to figure out the who and why of this assault. Meanwhile, a murder, stolen antiques, an odd religious sect, and a missing baby all add to the mystery’s complexity. Are Flavia and her trusty bike, Gladys, up to the challenge? What do you think?

To visit Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce website, click here.

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