All of the Flavia de Luce novels have the unusual aspect of being perfect mysteries for adults that would also intrigue young adult readers, and this third installment, A Red Herring Without Mustard, is in the same fine category.
Alan Bradley does his usual tip-top job of showing us Bishops Lacey, a quintessential English country town, bringing 1950 to life.
Flavia is the most unflappable and clever eleven-ear old to appear recently. With her two older sister still terrorizing her, Flavia often retreats to her chemistry lab and the concontions she makes there for revenge. But this is a small part of the action, as Flavia is determined to find out who bludgeoned an old Gypsy woman she stumbles across in the woman’s caravan, only hours after she has sent Flavia a message from her dead mother Harriet.
The addition of a missing baby, an unusual religious sect called The Hobblers, and a subterranean maze of tunnels underneath Flavia’s home at Buckshaw all make their appearance. So does Inspector Hewitt, Dogger and Mrs. Mullet. There’s a young gypsy, too, as well as a possible ring of antique thieves. It all comes together, as it surely should, under Flavia’s investigative genius.
I was pleased to see Bradley gave Flavia a vision of her mother she hadn’t seen before, although the true nature of this seems at first to be lost to Flavia, although it is not to her Colonel (ret.) father, the quietly-suffering, pedantic stamp collector.For fans of this young sleuth, Bradley doesn’t disappoint. For new readers, start at the beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie to get the full flavor of the lovely Flavia de Luce, chemist and crime investigator extraordinaire.