Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Review: A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good characters in a well put together mystery
Cons: Flavia and her rabbit trails can be a bit too much at times.
The Bottom Line:
When gypsy attacked
Flavia takes on new case
A tad long but fun

Can Flavia Sift Through the Red Herrings?

An eleven-year-old who solves murders.  That might not seem like a normal protagonist for a series aimed at adults, but Alan Bradley has done a remarkable job of doing just that with Flavia DeLuce.  A Red Herring Without Mustard is her third case, and it’s another enjoyable read.

When a gypsy woman pulls into town, Flavia can’t resist getting her fortune read.  It turns out this woman has visit the village of Bishop’s Lacey in the past and has even stayed in the pasture behind the de Luce family home.  After Flavia accidentally burns down the woman’s tent, she feels responsible for giving the gypsy a place to stay and suggests that she once again camp in that pasture.

Hours later, the gypsy has been attacked and is fighting for her life.  Flavia’s feelings of responsibility only grow, and she sets out to find the person responsible for the vicious act.  With the path seeming to lead through a dead body and several competing theories, can Flavia separate what really is happened from the red herrings?

Actually, seeing how everything came together in the end was one of my favorite things in the book.  No, I’m not going to spoil anything, but this really is a well plotted novel with a few things I thought were superfluous actually tying in to the main story in the end.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few passages that couldn’t have been trimmed.  Flavia’s inner monologue at times distracts from the story as it is unfolding.  A little of it is fun and cute and realistic for an eleven-year-old, but it could have been used more sparely in the book.

Likewise, I must say that Flavia herself can become a bit annoying.  There were times I wanted to smack some sense into her, which is probably proof that she is a realistic eleven-year-old.  Fortunately, she did get some talking to by other characters a couple of times that covered much of what I wanted to say to her.

The rest of the cast are equally as well developed and interesting to spend time with.  Since Flavia is our narrator, we see them through her eyes, but the result are characters we come to care about.

The series is set in 1950 England, and I enjoy getting a visit to another time and place.  Bishop’s Lacey is a small village, so this is very much a different time and place, and that is evoked completely in these pages.

Having now listened to three of the books this year, I find watching some threads that carry through the books quite interesting.  While nothing is resolved yet, something that was mentioned in book one becomes a bigger sub-plot here.  Meanwhile, Flavia has been involved in three murders in three months.  I’d worry if she weren’t enjoying herself so much.

As I just hinted, yes, I listened to the unabridged audio again.  Jane Entwistle is still narrating them, and if she ever stops I don’t know what I will do.  Even if I were to pick up a book and read it, I’d still hear her voice in my head.  And that’s a good thing because she provides such enthusiasm in the narration you can’t help but picture Flavia as you listen, yet she never goes over the top.

I definitely plan to continue visiting Bishop’s Lacey and Flavia de Luce next year.  I’m curious to see where the family and other characters we’ve already come to know go next.  And if you are looking for a different mystery, be sure to pick up A Red Herring Without Mustard today and get lots in a good story.

You'll want to follow along with the rest of the Flavia de Luce mysteries in order.

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