Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Red Herring Without Mustard - Alan Bradley

Summary: Award-winning author Alan Bradley returns with another beguiling novel starring the insidiously clever and unflappable eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce. The precocious chemist with a passion for poisons uncovers a fresh slew of misdeeds in the hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey—mysteries involving a missing tot, a fortune-teller, and a corpse in Flavia’s own backyard.

Flavia had asked the old Gypsy woman to tell her fortune, but never expected to stumble across the poor soul, bludgeoned in the wee hours in her own caravan. Was this an act of retribution by those convinced that the soothsayer had abducted a local child years ago? Certainly Flavia understands the bliss of settling scores; revenge is a delightful pastime when one has two odious older sisters. But how could this crime be connected to the missing baby? Had it something to do with the weird sect who met at the river to practice their secret rites? While still pondering the possibilities, Flavia stumbles upon another corpse—that of a notorious layabout who had been caught prowling about the de Luce’s drawing room.

Pedaling Gladys, her faithful bicycle, across the countryside in search of clues to both crimes, Flavia uncovers some odd new twists. Most intriguing is her introduction to an elegant artist with a very special object in her possession—a portrait that sheds light on the biggest mystery of all: Who is Flavia?

As the red herrings pile up, Flavia must sort through clues fishy and foul to untangle dark deeds and dangerous secrets.
Summary and cover photo from indiebound.org 

My Review: Say hello again to Flavia de Luce, the preteen amateur sleuth readers have come to love in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag. Once again readers find themselves following Flavia as she unravels the latest mystery to hit Bishop's Lacey, this time a brutal assault on a gypsy and the murder of the town idler. Her mission is made more difficult as she dodges her older sisters' cruel pranks and remains constantly vigilant of Investigator Hewitt, who attempts to chase her away from the case.

Flavia manages to juggle her love for chemistry and her loathing for her sisters while she gathers facts relating to the case. A hodgepodge of mismatched information seems to assemble and it's not until the final pages that the pieces fit together. During her journey Flavia receives some insight into her own family's workings which in turn mends fences and builds new bonds. An unexpected friendship also enters into this tale with a colorful character who will hopefully be seen again in future adventures.

This book, while still entertaining, seemed to lack something. There was not as much suspense as I had come to expect from Bradley as the perpetrator was fairly obvious early on. Flavia didn't seem to have to dig herself out of  many sticky situations, which had added an additional element of humor to the past books.The banter between Flavia and her sisters was also not nearly as amusing as I had hoped. I didn't find myself on edge of my seat or chuckling as much as in the past. However the author's note to reader at the end of the book did provide one last smile. And when all is said and done this book is still witty and fun.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars
Sensitive Readers: This book, as with the previous books, is pretty much spotless. With an 11-year-old protagonist it would really be a great fit in the young adult genre.


To Sum it up: Another entertaining installment in the chronicles of Flavia de Luce, though not the best by far.

4 comments:

Sweet Em said...

IS this series Young Adult? Your review made it sound like it isn't, but could be. Is it an adult fiction with a young protagonist? Interesting.

Sorilla said...

I have the same question as Sweet Em above...interesting to know if this book somehow got misplaced? Anyone else read it? Please comment ;)

Heather said...

This series of books has always been marketed as Adult Fiction.
Amazon has a Q&A with the author where a question about adult books featuring child narrators is asked. The author replies "To me, Flavia embodies that kind of hotly burning flame of our young years: that time of our lives when we’re just starting out, when anything--absolutely anything!--is within our capabilities." (http://www.amazon.com/Sweetness-at-Bottom-Pie/dp/0385342306)
It would fit well in the young adult genre though and many have been confused about the placement of this series.

Sorilla said...

Thanks, Heather ;)

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