A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

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A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A crime series set in the fifties. It might be the third in the series but it reads well as a stand alone and had me gripped from beginning to end. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: March 2011
Publisher: Orion
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0752897158

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Eleven year old Flavia is the youngest daughter of the de Luce family and she doesn't get on all that well with her elder sisters, Feely (Ophelia) and Daffy (Daphne). It could be rather lonely for her as her father is an eccentric stamp collector and her mother died in the Himalayas some ten years before, but she has her faithful bicycle, Gladys, for company and when she's not doing some sleuthing she's tinkering in her laboratory, where she has enough chemicals and poisons to give the modern-day Health and Safety person a heart attack.

At the village fete she didn't intend to set fire to the gypsy fortune-teller's tent, but having done so she felt obliged to offer the use of some of the family land until the old lady had recovered. When she returns the next day Flavia is shocked to see that the old lady has been brutally attacked. As if that wasn't enough she soon discovers another body, suspended from the statue of Poseidon in the grounds of their home. Will Flavia beat the local police force to the solutions to the crimes – and more to the point – will they appreciate her help?

I love crime novels, but I have to admit that I'm not keen when there's a historical element to the setting. A Red Herring Without Mustard is set after WII, but not by very much. I really don't like the amateur sleuth who outwits the professionals. They usually don't ring true at all and I have a special place reserved in my personal hell for child sleuths. So, this book didn't look as though it was going to get off to a good start.

I loved it.

The writing grabbed me and refused to let go before I reached the bottom of the first page. It's witty and thought-provoking. I found myself reading about some quite gruesome situations with a grin on my face because the writing was just so good. You'll love Flavia – clever, but not a clever-clogs – and with her own uncertainties. She's no angel – and the trick with the Bible quote was wicked but funny. The icing on the cake for me was the way in which Alan Bradley captured the middle of the last century. I was there and he has it spot on.

I'm in two minds about the plot. I saw which way it was going quite early on, but it would have stretched credulity a little far to have Flavia unravel anything more complex. In the end I found that it really didn't matter because I thoroughly enjoyed the book from start to finish.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy t the Bookbag.

For another excellent crime novel set in the middle of the last century we can recommend Christine Falls by Benjamin Black

Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce Mysteries in Chronological Order.

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Buy A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley at Amazon.com.


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