Tuesday, January 10, 2012
"A Cup of Ale Without A Wench"
A Red Herring Without Mustard is Alan Bradley's third mystery novel celebrating the deductive powers of his young heroine. From the back cover: "In the hamlet of Bishop's Lacey, the insidiously clever and unflappable eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce had asked a Gypsy woman to tell her fortune - never expecting to later stumble across the poor soul, bludgeoned almost to death in the wee hours in her own caravan. Was this an act of retribution by those convinced that the soothsayer 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? As the red herrings pile up, Flavia must sort through clues fishy and foul to untangle dark deeds and dangerous secrets."
In an introductory quote, Louise Penny, author of the Inspector Gamache series, says of Flavia: "She is always feisty, always smart, I adore her. And while it is wonderful to read her as an adult, I wish I'd had Flavia as a role model while growing up. It's cool to be smart." I concur whole-heartedly. I would have loved these books when I was younger. I have to wonder if that is part of the appeal now. Does reading about this inquisitive young woman remind me of myself when I was first discovering the magic of reading books? As quickly as I finished this book, I began looking forward to the fourth in the series. I believe there are hints in this one that the death of Flavia's mother is not all that it seems and that the de Luce's may not lose their ancestral estate after all. I'll just have to be content to wait to see if I'm right.
I like that this author incorporates true happenings from stories in the newspapers during the time period into her fiction. In this case an article in The New York Times from October 22, 1896 about a man being killed by a bomb in his office. And while that mystery was never solved, Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy once again work together to uncover the real culprit in the book.
Luckily my cataract surgery only kept me from reading one day. And a bout with a cold and the flu kept me pretty much confined to my reading nook (recliner and lamp - not something electronic) so I also managed three other quick reads - two M.C. Beaton Hamish Macbeth mysteries - Death of a Charming Man and Death of a Bore and a Dorothy Garlock - Train From Marietta - all three of which I picked up at a church rummage sale last fall an put aside for a time when I wasn't able to get to the library. Now that I am feeling better and the weather is still beautiful, it's time for a library run and a reading re-supply.