Thursday, February 24, 2011

What's Flavia Up to Now?

I’m quite excited! Alan Bradley’s third book, A Red Herring Without Mustard, has finally come out and I can’t wait to see what Flavia de Luce is up to now. This precocious eleven-year-old junior sleuth and self-taught chemist is one of my favourite literary characters of all time. She’s clever and innocent, but not naïve. She’s funny. She’s tenacious. She’s somehow both sensitive and unflappable. And through her, Bradley has managed to resurrect the good old-fashioned whodunnit in a most delightful way. Fans of Flavia de Luce will already know what I’m talking about. Those who haven’t yet had the Flavia experience are in for a big treat.

I cut my murder mystery teeth on Nancy Drew when a boy in my third grade class gave me a copy of The Secret in the Old Clock (the first Nancy Drew mystery, 1932). I think it may have been the first real novel that I ever read, and while I cannot recall the plot at all now, I will never forget the feeling of being thrilled by the discovery and unraveling of the clues. I wanted to be a detective!

As I grew older, I got to know more literary detectives, both amateur and professional. Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot topped my list of favourites for decades. They were the quintessential representatives of the mystery genre where, while yes, there were dead bodies, the focus was not on the violence of the murder, but the detection involved in solving the crime.

Brother Cadfael (Ellis Peters) and Amelia Peabody (Elizabeth Peters) soon joined the intrepid trio of esteemed crime solvers, rounding out a short, but beloved list of clue-gathering brilliance. Then came Jim Qwilleran, Willam Murdoch, Tom Barnaby, and Mikail Blomkvist. The list was growing. And now dear little Flavia has found a permanent place in my heart (and on my list).

I almost put The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia’s first adventure) down after the first page. What? I asked myself have I gotten myself into. The opening paragraphs described, in the first person, a dreadful kidnapping and escape. It was this passage – on page 2 – that got me hooked: “I skipped down the broad stone staircase into the hall, pausing at the door of the dining room just long enough to toss my pigtails back over my shoulders and into their regulation position.” I had to read on.

I’m so glad that I did. Alan Bradley spun a tale of mystery so utterly captivating that I rushed out and bought my own copy. When The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag came out, I pushed aside two other novels to read it. Flavia had lost none of her charm. Her vivid imagination and genius detection skills kept me up well into the wee hours each night until I sadly turned the last page and closed the cover on another endearing chapter in her young life.

Now, the bright yellow dust jacket that hugs A Red Herring Without Mustard beckons me back into Flavia’s post WWII English world. Shortly after a Gypsy tells her fortune, Flavia stumbles (probably literally) across the seer’s dead body. “…bludgeoned in the wee hours in her own caravan.” Was it an act of retribution? Flavia is about to find out.

You can place a hold on this book by searching the on-line catalogue at for A red herring without mustard. Click on the title and then click on Place Hold on the far right side of the page. Enter your user name and password and then click on the Place Hold button near the bottom of the page. You will be entered into the queue and our friendly staff will let you know as soon as it is available.

1 comment:

  1. Oooh....I can't wait to get my hands on this one too!!!