Monday, December 13, 2010

A Red Herring Without Mustard -Alan Bradley

A Red Herring Without Mustard
Alan Bradley
Delacorte, Feb 8 2011, $23.00
ISBN: 9780385342322

In Bishop’s Lacey, England the Gypsy looks into her crystal ball to inform eleven year old chemist and amateur sleuth Flavia de Luce her future. However, the hag tells her she has never in her life seen a darker future. Flavia is not one to be concerned as the child deals with an odd household on their Buckshaw Estate. Her widowed father the Colonel lives for his philately collection; her oldest sister Ophelia "Feely" loves her music; and the middle sister thirteen years old “Daffy” Daphne hides in her books. Flavia, who never met her mother Harriet (outside the womb that is), uses her late great-Uncle Tarquin’s fully loaded chem lab as her escapism into the savory world of poison.

Soon after the dark reading, Flavia finds the corpse of the ancient Gypsy. Someone stabbed the woman to death in her wagon. Flavia on her bike Gladys investigates the homicide while she contemplates that the murder appears to be one of passion perhaps vengeance; similar to what she thrives for against her older siblings though not with murderous malice. Instead of solving this killing, Flavia finds a second body. Her inquiry leads to an intriguing clue to what she considers the key mystery.

This is a terrific post WWII whimsical amateur sleuth as Flavia follows the murder clues while eluding the demands of her older sisters and her father is to busy with his stamps. As with her previous cases (see The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag), the tweener keeps the story line focused as she investigates two homicides in which the clues twist into something personal.

Harriet Klausner

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