Crowinator's Reviews > A Red Herring Without Mustard

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
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's review
Oct 06, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: mystery-and-crime, 2011-reads, historical, favorites-2011, characters-i-love, adult

As always, a delight.

One-sentence summary: Flavia de Luce returns in her third mystery, investigating a long-ago missing child, the brutal attack on a gypsy fortune-teller, and a murdered local thug.

I feel like I've already said everything I need to about this series in my short reviews of the other two books. This one isn't any different -- it's delightful, charming, and funny, but it has dark undertones (her sisters' treatment of Flavia, which seems to be worse in this book; her father's absent-minded neglect; the family's looming money troubles; and oh yeah, all the murders). Obviously, Flavia carries the series, and you either love it or hate it on the basis of her character, because you can't escape her point of view: she is terribly deceitful and cunning and prideful, too smart to see how foolish she is, but she has a vulnerable and even a naive side that helps you remember that she's only a child, and a lonely one at that.

My favorite part of this series so far is seeing how the relationship between Flavia and Inspector Hewitt develops: both his wry but protective treatment of her and her fantasies of earning his esteem as a detective. Flavia's near-obsession with him and with his pretty wife are funny but heartbreaking. At one point, she daydreams about being invited to tea, I think, where they both shower her with attention, and to me it shows how much she longs for a fully-engaged, demonstrative family. (Also it shows her delusions of grandeur, which is the dark side to Flavia's flights of fancy; she is entirely too in love with her genius to admit to any faults of her own.) I love that he actually invites her to visit at the end! She needs someone wholly on her side and willing to do what it takes to mold her into the best detective she can be -- because otherwise, she may turn into a criminal mastermind one day.
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Reading Progress

October 6, 2010 – Shelved
October 7, 2010 – Shelved as: mystery-and-crime
Started Reading
February 19, 2011 – Shelved as: 2011-reads
February 19, 2011 – Shelved as: historical
February 19, 2011 – Finished Reading
December 3, 2011 – Shelved as: favorites-2011
December 23, 2011 – Shelved as: characters-i-love
November 26, 2012 – Shelved as: adult

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Tatiana I concur. Just finished it myself:)

Carla Can't wait to read it!

Inoli Very perceptive. This added an additional dimension to the Flavia I've seen. I'm glad I've been stretching this out and haven't finished yet. I'm anxious to read the rest with the interesting new texture.

Crowinator Thanks! All the relationships are so very understated and British but Inspector Hewitt seems to be figuring Flavia out more and more as the series continues.

Crowinator Whoops, I had to edit this review briefly because I had combined the murdered thief and the attack on the gypsy into one event!

message 6: by Carla (last edited Mar 14, 2011 05:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Carla I'm glad that I read your review too. I love all the characters including Flavia's mean sisters. I think some of their animosity is because they somehow know that Harriet loved Flavia greatly and Flavia is like their Mother. And I love the relationship, Flavia has with their older servent, whose name just went right out of my head. But they are so good together. I can't wait for the next book in this series.

message 7: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I am guessing it is best to read these in order?

Carla Yes. Definitely. The characters have such a big part of the story, not just the mystery. They grow and change with each book. Read them and enjoy!

Crowinator Hey Kelly, I agree with my mom (Hi Mom!) that it's best to read them in order, if only to get continuity with Flavia's family history and some character development. However, you wouldn't really be lost if you started with a later one; you'd wouldn't have any trouble following the story. I'd say at least read the first one first, but then you could skip around if you wanted.

message 10: by Silvia (new)

Silvia Cachia Lovely review. I agree. I am a fan of Flavia.

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