A Red Herring Without Mustard – Alan Bradley

Back for a third visit to the house Buckshaw in Bishop’s Lacey and its residents. Three willful girls, Flavia, Daphne and Ophelia and their quiet father, plus Mrs Mullet the lady that helps in the kitchen and the faithful Dogger who seems to do everything in the grounds.

A seemingly ordinary large crumbling house in a village in Fifties Britain. However this house holds Flavia de Luce, the eleven year old girl who has a penchant for chemistry, even to the fact that she has her own laboratory in the east wing of the house, a fascination with poisons and is well known to the local constabulary – for finding bodies. Dead bodies.

In this book, Flavia befriends the local gypsy and fortune teller, after feeling guilty about setting her tent on fire at the local church fete. She lets her stay on the de Luce land but it causes somewhat of a problem as it seems this gypsy woman has been in the village before just when something unpleasant happened. Is her return opening wounds of the past? It seems to when the gypsy is attacked and it is Flavia that finds her.

So Flavia wants to find out the truth, especially when the gypsy woman’s granddaughter Porcelain shows up and thinks Flavia is to blame. Flavia has to use all her precocious skills and knowledge of chemistry to win the girl over but then another body turns up. In fact it is hanging up a bit too close to home for Flavia. It seems the weapon was even closer to home. But distracted by fire irons turning up all over the place when they should be by the fireside at Buckshaw, it seems that Flavia is going to need more than her wits to get to the bottom of this mystery.

All of this you have to remember is occurring when Flavia is merely eleven. You get the very honest emotions about her sisters who seem to be her tormentors and there is that fatherly love which seems to be missing but is shown in parts throughout this book more than before. For me Flavia seems to be missing something in her life and she finds that comfort in her chemistry lab and also with the faithful Dogger and Mrs Mullet who Flavia uses to her own advantage in solving the mysteries that she stumbles across. Flavia is a child in an adult world, and is much older than her years.

This is a traditional village crime book in some ways and like the title there are plenty of red herrings thrown in so you are not sure where exactly the author is going to take you. But rest assured it is a delightful journey and you must simple go along for the ride.

It has been a while since I have read any Flavia de Luce and when I spotted this on my last visit to the library I was taken, I thought it would make a good holiday read. So it did, but I do wish I had written the review fairly soon after reading the book; there is so much one can say about the prose and language used by this author and her does demonstrate so well how witty Flavia is in the world she exists in. Perhaps there is a rose tinted view of Britain in a Fifties Village which some people have commented on negatively but so what. Life is full of a lot of non-rose tinted things and it is nice to escape in to a nice world albeit with a few murders and Flavia thrown in. 

I will try not to leave it so long to read the next book and also write at least a rough review after having read it.