RED HERRING WITHOUT MUSTARD
by Alan Bradley
Most of us were introduced to the precocious Flavia in "Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" in 2009. If I was giving a teen girl a book I'd give her this instead of a book with a shallow, whiny, love-sick (sick being the important word) teen heroine. It is written for adults, with nothing inappropriate for any age reader, and is a fun read-a-loud if you can do an English accent.
Flavia's adventures include five books, and since I never read a series out of order I had to read this 3rd one, in order to read the 4th one, "I am Half-sick of Shadows" now sitting on the bedside table. And then I can finally pick up the 5th one, "Speaking from Among the Bones" from the library. It's exhausting keeping up with myself.
Motherless Flavia De Luce is the 11-year-old girl we never could have been but somehow we wish we were - for a little while. I love that she calls her bicycle Gladys. Her chemistry experiments and her amateur sleuthing make her a little more interesting than most 11-year-olds. She roams freely in a decaying manor house with a distracted father and 2 older sisters. Her address isn't a number on a street so you know it's grand. Buckshaw includes acres of woodland and boggy streams near a small village which makes it perfect setting for a 1950s British murder mystery.
The same characters appear in this story. Dogger the gardener who suffers mental lapses due to war wounds, and Mrs. Mullet who isn't the best cook but a reliable gossip are always able to assist our young sleuth. Several new characters are just as eccentric and my favorites from the list are the old gypsy and her granddaughter. Gypsies make every story better, since they seem to have a strange and mystical culture.
I adore this character. She's smart, funny, sassy and still finding out about herself. It's "wickedly funny" so sit by the grate with a cuppa and enjoy trying to keep up with the puzzling twists and turns in the third Flavia adventure.