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Overview -

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.  Read more...


 

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Overview

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.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780385342322
  • ISBN-10: 0385342322
  • Publish Date: February 2011


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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2010-12-06
  • Reviewer: Staff

In Bradley's outstanding third Flavia de Luce mystery set in post-WWII rural England (after 2010's The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag), precocious 11-year-old Flavia de Luce and her family pursue their different interests. Flavia's widowed father, Col. Haviland de Luce, has his philately; 17-year-old sister Ophelia ("Feely"), her music; and 13-year-old sister Daphne ("Daffy"), her books. Flavia's escape is the old, elaborately equipped chemistry lab installed by her late great-uncle, Tarquin de Luce, in their Buckshaw estate. Flavia's discovery of an old Gypsy woman who's been attacked in her wagon sends the girl off on an investigation that will reveal more of Buckshaw's secrets as well as new information about Harriet, the mother Flavia never knew. In this marvelous blend of whimsy and mystery, Flavia manages to operate successfully in the adult world of crimes and passions while dodging the childhood pitfalls set by her sisters. (Feb.)

 
BookPage Reviews

A most murderous lady

The first thing that Flavia de Luce, Alan Bradley’s 11-year-old sleuth, does in his latest mystery is set a gypsy fortune teller’s tent on fire. It gets worse from there, but this is a Flavia de Luce novel. So there’s a nasty bludgeoning followed by a gruesomely inventive murder and the discovery of yet another corpse, all on the de Luce property. We can count on the undaunted Flavia to get to the bottom of these crimes.

 

Because she’s an expert in poisons, which she sometimes uses to get non-lethal revenge on her mean sisters Ophelia and Daphne, Flavia solves her crimes through chemistry. The title may refer to the persistent and unexpected smell of fish around both crime scenes and persons of interest. But as Flavia knows, a fishy smell doesn’t necessarily mean fish. And let’s not forget the pair of fox andirons that belonged to Flavia’s long-dead Mum, Harriet. They seem heavy enough to smash in a skull or two.

 

A Red Herring Without Mustard is as hilarious, gripping and sad as the previous books in this enjoyable series. The comedy comes from a little girl pulling one over on a bunch of clueless grown-ups as she pretends to be as clueless as they are. It’s gripping because it’s a well-paced murder mystery, and it’s sad because Flavia’s family is so messed up. Her sisters truly, deeply, inexplicably hate her. Her father, as inurned in grief over his wife as ever, now has the extra burden of trying to keep up Buckshaw, the de Luce’s great pile of a house, and the acreage it sits on. It’s gotten to the point where he’s auctioning off the family silver—another detail the reader should keep in mind,

 

Bradley displays his usual insight into Flavia’s character, though I’ve always suspected the books are from the point of view of an old lady recalling an unusually interesting childhood, like Mattie in True Grit. Bradley’s also good with his minor characters, a colorful bunch that includes Dogger, the shell-shocked factotum; Mrs. Mullet, the de Luces’ voluble, no-nonsense cook; and Inspector Hewitt, the stoic detective who’ll never admit how much Flavia helps his cases. A Red Herring Without Mustard introduces the deeply troubled Bull family and Porcelain, the unstable granddaughter of the fortuneteller. The requisite, well, red herrings, are numerous enough to keep the reader guessing. Once again, Bradley succeeds. And so, of course, does Flavia.

 

 
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