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A Red Herring Without Mustard
Cover of A Red Herring Without Mustard
A Red Herring Without Mustard
Flavia de Luce Mystery Series, Book 3
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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.


From the Hardcover edition.

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.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    ONE

    "You frighten me," the Gypsy said. "Never have I seen my crystal ball so filled with darkness."

    She cupped her hands around the thing, as if to shield my eyes from the horrors that were swimming in its murky depths. As her fingers gripped the glass, I thought I could feel ice water trickling down inside my gullet.

    At the edge of the table, a thin candle flickered, its sickly light glancing off the dangling brass hoops of the Gypsy's earrings, then flying off to die somewhere in the darkened corners of the tent.

    Black hair, black eyes, black dress, red-painted cheeks, red mouth, and a voice that could only have come from smoking half a million cigarettes.

    As if to confirm my suspicions, the old woman was suddenly gripped by a fit of violent coughing that rattled her crooked frame and left her gasping horribly for air. It sounded as though a large bird had somehow become entangled in her lungs and was flapping to escape.

    "Are you all right?" I asked. "I'll go for help."

    I thought I had seen Dr. Darby in the churchyard not ten minutes earlier, pausing to have a word or two at each stall of the church fête. But before I could make a move, the Gypsy's dusky hand had covered mine on the black velvet of the tabletop.

    "No," she said. "No . . . don't do that. It happens all the time."

    And she began to cough again.

    I waited it out patiently, almost afraid to move.

    "How old are you?" she said at last. "Ten? Twelve?"

    "Eleven," I said, and she nodded her head wearily as though she'd known it all along.

    "I see--a mountain," she went on, almost strangling on the words, "and the face--of the woman you will become."

    In spite of the stifling heat of the darkened tent, my blood ran cold. She was seeing Harriet, of course!

    Harriet was my mother, who had died in a climbing accident when I was a baby.

    The Gypsy turned my hand over and dug her thumb painfully into the very center of my palm. My fingers spread--and then curled in upon themselves like the toes of a chicken's severed foot.

    She took up my left hand. "This is the hand you were born with," she said, barely glancing at the palm, then letting it fall and picking up the other. ". . . and this is the hand you've grown."

    She stared at it distastefully as the candle flickered. "This broken star on your Mount of Luna shows a brilliant mind turned in upon itself--a mind that wanders the roads of darkness."

    This was not what I wanted to hear.

    "Tell me about the woman you saw on the mountain," I said. "The one I shall become."

    She coughed again, clutching her colored shawl tightly about her shoulders, as though wrapping herself against some ancient and invisible winter wind.

    "Cross my palm with silver," she demanded, sticking out a grubby hand.

    "But I gave you a shilling," I said. "That's what it says on the board outside."

    "Messages from the Third Circle cost extra," she wheezed. "They drain the batteries of my soul."

    I almost laughed out loud. Who did this old hag think she was? But still, she seemed to have spotted Harriet beyond the veil, and I couldn't let skepticism spoil even half a chance of having a few words with my dead mother.

    I dug for my last shilling, and as I pressed the coin into her hand, the Gypsy's dark eyes, suddenly as bright as a jackdaw's, met mine.

    "She is trying to come home," she said. "This . . . woman . . . is trying to come home from the cold. She wants you to help her."

    I leapt to my feet, bashing the bottom of the table with my bare knees. It teetered, then toppled to one side as the candle slid off and fell...

About the Author-
  • Alan Bradley is the internationally bestselling author of many short stories, children's stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. His first Flavia de Luce mystery, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, received the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, and the Agatha Award, and was nominated for the Macavity, the Anthony, and the Barry awards. His second Flavia de Luce mystery is The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag. Bradley lives in Malta with his wife and two calculating cats, and is currently at work on the next Flavia de Luce mystery, I Am Half Sick of Shadows.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Alan Bradley's witty mysteries are paired to perfection with Jayne Entwistle's extraordinary performance of the 11-year-old spirited sleuth Flavia de Luce. In the post-WWII countryside of England, the intrepid Flavia uncovers more dastardly deeds, including a bludgeoned gypsy fortune-teller, thievery, and a corpse hanging from Poseidon's trident. Entwistle's youthful lilt is ideal for the young heroine, especially the precocious snoop's dialogue. While Entwistle cleverly performs other characters' accents and voices, her forte is in rendering Flavia's droll humor about the absurdities of life and her delight in her own creativity. Entwistle has the gift of being able to conjure an audible smile, especially when Flavia is up to her mischievous pranks. Murder, dark secrets, and mayhem are "jolly sport" for Flavia de Luce! A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award (c) AudioFile 2011, Portland, Maine
  • New York Times Book Review

    "She remains irresistibly appealing."

  • Las Vegas ReviewJournal "A Red Herring Without Mustard will steal a mystery lover's heart, and the clever Miss Flavia will surely keep it forever."
  • Montreal Gazette "Flavia, oh Flavia, how I've missed you!.....If you like your heroines whip-smart, lippy, and resourceful, Flavia's your gal."
  • Toronto Globe & Mail "As satisfying as the mystery is, the multiple-award winning Bradley offers more...beautifully written, with fully fleshed characters...[Bradley] secures his position as a confident, talented writer and storyteller."
  • Seattle Times "Delightful....The book's forthright and eerily mature narrator is a treasure."
  • Wall Street Journal "This idiosyncratic heroine continues to charm."
  • Entertainment Weekly "Think preteen Nancy Drew, only savvier and a lot richer, and you have Flavia de Luce....Don't be fooled by Flavia's age or the 1950s setting: A Red Herring isn't a dainty tea-and-crumpets sort of mystery. It's shot through with real grit."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Outstanding....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."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "Oh, to be 11 again and pal around with irresistible wunderkind Flavia de Luce....A splendid romp through 1950s England led by the world's smartest and most incorrigible preteen."
  • Library Journal (starred review) "Whether battling with her odious sisters or verbally sparing with the long-suffering Inspector Hewitt, our cheeky heroine is a delight. Full of pithy dialog and colorful characters, this series would appeal strongly to fans of Dorothy Sayers, Gladys Mitchell, and Leo Bruce as well as readers who like clever humor mixed in with their mysteries."
  • USA Today ACCLAIM FOR ALAN BRADLEY'S BELOVED FLAVIA DE LUCE MYSTERIES

    "Flavia is incisive, cutting and hilarious . . . one of the most remarkable creations in recent literature."
  • Chicago Sun-Times The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

    "Wonderfully entertaining . . . sure to be one of the most loved mysteries of the year."
  • USA Today
    "If ever there was a sleuth who's bold, brilliant, and, yes, adorable, it's Flavia de Luce. . . . [A] scrumptious first novel."
  • Entertainment Weekly The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

    "Utterly beguiling . . . wicked wit . . . The real delight here is [Flavia's] droll voice and the eccentric cast."--People (four stars)

    "Bradley takes everything you expect and subverts it, delivering a smart, irreverent, unsappy mystery."
  • Winston-Salem Journal
    "Discovering Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce books is several steps beyond pleasure--it's a sheer delight."
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A Red Herring Without Mustard
A Red Herring Without Mustard
Flavia de Luce Mystery Series, Book 3
Alan Bradley
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