A Red Herring Without Mustard

Thursday, October 6, 2011


A Red Herring Without Mustard
by Alan Bradley
★★★★☆

Oh how I love Flavia de Luce. This is the third book in the series (here are reviews of one and two) and instead of getting lazy and assuming the audience from previous books would love her regardless of his efforts, the author has delved deeper into what makes her tick. It’s a wonderful addition to the series.

This mystery has her trying to find out who killed a local boy and beat a gypsy within an inch of her life. Though the plot is great, it’s really secondary to the developing relationships in the series. What I truly loved about this book was getting to know a bit more about Harriet, Flavia’s mother. We also had the chance to see a bit more of her illusive father. He has completely cut himself off from his daughters because of his debilitating grief, but we are getting the chance to see flashes of the man he once was.


The novel still gives us the same old Flavia, curious to a fault, but endlessly entertaining. Yet there are a few moments of maturity that weren’t there in the previous books. While she’s always been wise beyond her years when it comes to chemistry, she’s still a little girl in most ways. In this book we realize that she’s starting to grow up.

In one scene, a new friend is talking about how her mother died too young. Flavia realizes that it would be easy to bring up the death of her own mother, but instead she lets the matter lie, because at that moment, the grief in the room belonged to her friend. In scenes like that we get to see a bit of the woman she will one day become, but I hope we don’t get there too soon, because I love the mix of childish delight and grown-up analytical thought processes that is Flavia.

“Whoever had chosen the paint, I decided, wanted to ensure that anyone who wasn’t sick when they entered the hospital, jolly well would be before they left.”

I read this for the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings here.

For more R.I.P reviews visit here.

18 comments:

Amanda said...

I've said before that I didn't like the second book in this series, but I still tried this third book and ended up loving it maybe even more than the first!

Jeanne said...

Wow. I thought I had given up on these books after reading that second one, but perhaps not. This sounds much better!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Amanda - I didn't hate the second book, but it was my least favorite of all three.

Jeanne - It's the character of Flavia that keeps me coming back.

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

I love it when a particular book in a series is used to develop characterization.

Only read the first one - Is Flavia growing up with every book or does she remain more or less with the same age?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Alex - So far she's pretty much the same age. I saw that the 4th book, "I Am Half-Sick of Shadows," is coming out soon and she's still 11 in that one too. We aren't watching her grow up fast, but we're getting to see a bit more depth with each book.

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I have the first book by Alan Bradley, but I haven't read it yet. I've heard wonderful things about his writing.

Darlene said...

I'm anxious to read this series. I bought them all and just need some time to get started. They were featured on our news one day a while back. That was what originally prompted me to buy them - that and the good reviews.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Mrs. Q and Darlene - I look forward to hearing what you guys think when you read them.

Jenners said...

Glad to hear that this delves more deeply into Flavia and her family. I've always found them to be the main attraction of these books … not the mysteries. This sounds like a good addition. I shall have to look for this as I know the next one is coming out soon!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenners - I agree. Her sisters can be nasty, but you can't help but be fascinated by them.

Elisabeth said...

I loved the first two books, look forward to the third and am excited to see there is a fourth on the way!

Whitney said...

I loved learning more about Flavia's parents in this one, they were both closed books. I just hope Flavia doesn't grow up too soon, maybe Bishop's Lacy will be like Neverland? Great review!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Elisabeth - Me too! I didn't know there was already a 4th book coming out until just a week or two ago.

Whitney - A version of Neverland, I love it!

Jeanne said...

I really don't disagree with you about this one. But I think I keep wanting more, faster. This series is pitched to reveal very little, very slowly.

Carl V. said...

Great review of a delightful book. This is the strongest of the series thus far, in my opinion, but of course each is linked so well with the others that they are all the better for the ones that went before.

I too love how we learned so much more about the de Luce family in this one. I've often said the real mystery of this series is the one that happened to Harriet and its effects on this family and I love how Bradley is ever so slowly revealing more and more about that as the series goes along.

I do hope the series is finite, that we get three or four more books and within that time the de Luce mystery is solved. I love the characters so much and I would hate to see it wear thin by having too many books. At the same time I am in no hurry for them to end.

And the fourth book comes out in just a few weeks! Yay!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Carl V. - I agree with you about the series getting stronger. I know some people think it's revealing things too slowly, but somehow it works for me. I also hope that the series isn't dragged into 20 books or something. I think it would be easy to burn people out on Flavia in that way and that would be a shame.

Carl V. said...

I enjoy the pacing and have heard but don't agree with those who think it is moving too slowly.

And to be honest I don't get the problems people had with the second book. There were interesting things happening with Flavia, the mystery was no less entertaining than the others, and I don't find it much different in style or substance than the other two books.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Carl V. - I'm with you. I was actually surprised by the backlash against the second book. It felt almost exactly like the first to me (in a good way).