Picture this: an 11-year-old girl riding through the English countryside in the mid- 20th century on a bike lovingly named Gladys. Would you ever guess that this girl was solving a recent murder using her sleuthing skills and vast knowledge of chemistry? If you are curious, take a bite out of A Red Herring Without Mustard, Alan Bradley’s third and most recent novel in his popular mystery series.
Originally an electronic engineer for the University of Saskatchewan and various radio and television stations, Alan Bradley retired in 1994 to write. Bradley published his memoir, The Shoebox Bible, in 2006, after previously conspiring with Dr. William A.S. Sarjeant to write Ms. Holmes of Baker Street.
In 2009, Bradley released his first novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, starring charming protagonist Flavia de Luce and the art of philately. The second book, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, follows Flavia in her latest fascination with a traveling puppet show. And the third book, A Red Herring Without Mustard, accompanies Flavia in her encounters with a gypsy and her crystal ball.
A brilliant writer, Bradley employs a magnificent vocabulary in this British series, alluding to classics such as Schubert’s “Serenade,” the myth of the Greek god Poseidon and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He develops his characters beyond the flat pages of a book so effectively that the reader can paint perfect mental images of Flavia’s town, Bishop’s Lacey, and its citizenry. Seventy-year-old Bradley perfectly captures the thoughts of an 11-year-old girl.
When asked in an Amazon. com interview how he came up with the character of Flavia de Luce, Bradley responded, “She just materialized. I can’t take any credit for Flavia at all. I’ve never had a character who came that much to life. I’ve had characters that tend to tell you what to do, but Flavia grabbed the controls on page one… It surprised me.”
Flavia’s penchant for poisons, her eccentric family and her knack for solving mysteries puts her on the map as one of the greatest protagonists of all time.
Bradley has received a number of honors and awards, including: 16 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller List, the 2010 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel, #1 in Amazon.com’s Best Fiction of the Year So Far July 2009, Random House AudioBook version named “Best Audiobook of 2009″ by Apple iTunes, and Winner of the 2007 Debut Dagger Award. A true writer, Bradley is never boring; his novels are plot-driven and complete with in-depth characters.
A novel for all ages, A Red Herring without Mustard is full of twists and turns that make for an unpredictable and enthralling mystery. Flavia’s great passion and curiosity make her entirely captivating; most adults do not share such the enthusiasm for life that she does.
All of the novels in Bradley’s mystery series make for entertaining and truly enjoyable reads. I would highly recommend the Flavia de Luce series as the delightful and refreshing mysteries you never read.