Guest Reviewer: Louise Penny on A Red Herring Without Mustard Louise Penny is the bestselling author of Bury Your Dead,The Brutal Telling, Still Life and A Fatal Grace
Alan Bradley’s third Flavia de Luce mystery, A Red Herring Without Mustard, exceeds in every way, if that’s even possible, his first two. Flavia uses her trademark cunning in scheming to get even with her older sisters who lay in wait to torment her. She saves a gypsy’s life, befriends Porcelain, the gypsy’s granddaughter, solves a puzzling and bizarre murder involving an ancient non-conformist cult, collects clues the police have missed and fearlessly ventures into danger. She is always feisty, always smart. I adore her. And while it is wonderful to read her as an adult I wish I’d had Flavia as a role model while growing up. It’s cool to be smart. It’s cool to be Flavia! And it’s great to be among her legion of fans.
Stubborn, precocious Flavia de Luce seems old beyond her 11 years, but readers of her previous encounters with dead bodies and mystery know she has a vulnerable side, as well. Nowhere is that more visible than in her relationships with her distant father and her sisters, who constantly taunt her. In her latest adventure, the family is on the verge of bankruptcy. Father is auctioning his beloved stamps and selling the family silver. In the midst of this crisis, the irrepressible young snoop investigates the beating of a gypsy fortune-teller and the murder of a local thief, which seem somehow connected to a group of religious eccentrics, an antique shop, a missing baby, and a strange, fishy smell. Sound complicated? It is, but Bradley handles it so well you hardly notice. Buttressed by consistently quirky characters and an English country-village backdrop, Flavia�s chatterbox narration reveals the amateur sleuth�s obnoxiousness as well as her intellegence and irrepressible curiosity. The upshot is a spirited, surprisingly innocent tale, despite murky goings-on at its center. Think of Flavia as a new Sherlock in the making. --Stephanie Zvirin