A Red Herring without Mustard (Flavia de Luce Series #3)

A Red Herring without Mustard (Flavia de Luce Series #3)

by Alan Bradley


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A Red Herring without Mustard (Flavia de Luce Series #3) by Alan Bradley

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - Alan Bradley, author of the most award-winning series debut of any year, returns with another irresistible Flavia de Luce novel.
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385343466
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/18/2011
Series: Flavia de Luce Series , #3
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 112,411
Product dimensions: 5.26(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.94(d)
Lexile: 920L (what's this?)

About the Author

Alan Bradley is the New York Times bestselling author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. His first Flavia de Luce novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Agatha Award, the Macavity Award, and the Barry Award, and was nominated for the Anthony Award. His other Flavia de Luce novels are The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, A Red Herring Without MustardI Am Half-Sick of ShadowsSpeaking from Among the Bones, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, and The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place, as well as the ebook short story “The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse.”

Read an Excerpt


"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 among a tangle of dusty black hangings.

At first there was a little wisp of black smoke as the flame turned blue, then red, then quickly orange. I looked on in horror as it spread along the drapery.

In less time than it takes to tell, the entire tent was in flames.

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to throw a wet cloth over the Gypsy's eyes and lead her to safety, but instead I bolted--straight through the circle of fire that was the entranceway--and I didn't stop until I reached the coconut pitch, where I stood panting behind a canvas drape, trying to catch my breath.

Someone had brought a wind-up gramophone to the churchyard, from which the voice of Danny Kaye was issuing, made nauseously tinny by the throat of the machine's painted horn:

"Oh I've got a lov-ely bunch of coconuts.

There they are a-standin' in a row . . ."

I looked back at the Gypsy's tent just in time to see Mr. Haskins, St. Tancred's sexton, and another man whom I didn't recognize heave a tub of water, apples and all, onto the flames.

Half the villagers of Bishop's Lacey, or so it seemed, stood gaping at the rising column of black smoke, hands over mouths or fingertips to cheeks, and not a single one of them knowing what to do.

Dr. Darby was already leading the Gypsy slowly away towards the St. John's Ambulance tent, her ancient frame wracked with coughing. How small she seemed in the sunlight, I thought, and how pale.

"Oh, there you are, you odious little prawn. We've been looking for you everywhere."

It was Ophelia, the older of my two sisters. Feely was seventeen, and ranked herself right up there with the Blessed Virgin Mary, although the chief difference between them, I'm willing to bet, is that the BVM doesn't spend twenty-three hours a day peering at herself in a looking glass while picking away at her face with a pair of tweezers.

With Feely, it was always best to employ the rapid retort: "How dare you call me a prawn, you stupid sausage? Father's told you more than once it's disrespectful."

Feely made a snatch at my ear, but I sidestepped her easily. By sheer necessity, the lightning dodge had become one of my specialties.

"Where's Daffy?" I asked, hoping to divert her venomous attention.

Daffy was my other sister, two years older than me, and at thirteen already an accomplished co-torturer.

"Drooling over the books. Where else?" She pointed with her chin to a horseshoe of trestle tables on the churchyard grass, upon which the St. Tancred's Altar Guild and the Women's Institute had joined forces to set up a jumble sale of secondhand books and assorted household rubbish.

Feely had seemed not to notice the smoking remnants of the Gypsy's tent. As always, she had left her spectacles at home out of vanity, but her inattentiveness might simply have been lack of interest. For all practical purposes, Feely's enthusiasms stopped where her skin ended.

"Look at these," she said, holding a set of black earrings up to her ears. She couldn't resist showing off. "French jet. They came from Lady Trotter's estate. Glenda says they were quite fortunate to get a tanner for them."

"Glenda's right," I said. "French jet is nothing but glass."

It was true: I had recently melted down a ghastly Victorian brooch in my chemical laboratory, and found it to be completely silicaceous. It was unlikely that Feely would ever miss the thing.

"English jet is so much more interesting," I said. "It's formed from the fossilized remains of monkey-puzzle trees, you see, and--"

But Feely was already walking away, lured by the sight of Ned Cropper, the ginger-haired potboy at the Thirteen Drakes who, with a certain muscular grace, was energetically tossing wooden batons at the Aunt Sally. His third stick broke the wooden figure's clay pipe clean in two, and Feely pulled up at his side just in time to be handed the teddy bear prize by the madly blushing Ned.

"Anything worth saving from the bonfire?" I asked Daffy, who had her nose firmly stuck in what, judging by its spotty oxidized pages, might have been a first edition of Pride and Prejudice.

It seemed unlikely, though. Whole libraries had been turned in for salvage during the war, and nowadays there wasn't much left for the jumble sales. Whatever books remained unsold at the end of the summer season would, on Guy Fawkes Night, be carted from the basement of the parish hall, heaped up on the village green, and put to the torch.

I tipped my head sideways and took a quick squint at the stack of books Daffy had already set aside: On Sledge and Horseback to Outcast Siberian Lepers, Pliny's Natural History, The Martyrdom of Man, and the first two volumes of the Memoirs of Jacques Casanova--the most awful piffle. Except perhaps for Pliny, who had written some ripping stuff about poisons.

I walked slowly along the table, running a finger across the books, all of them arranged with their spines upwards: Ethel M. Dell, E. M. Delafield, Warwick Deeping . . .

I had noticed on another occasion that most of the great poisoners in history had names beginning with the letter C, and now here were all of these authors beginning with a D. Was I on to something? Some secret of the universe?

I squeezed my eyes shut and concentrated: Dickens . . . Doyle . . . Dumas . . . Dostoyevsky--I had seen all of them, at one time or another, clutched in Daffy's hands.

Daffy herself was planning to become a novelist when she was older. With a name like Daphne de Luce, she couldn't fail if she tried!

"Daff!" I said. "You'll never guess--"

"Quiet!" she snapped. "I've told you not to speak to me when I'm reading."

My sister could be a most unpleasant porpoise when she felt like it.

It had not always been this way. When I was younger, for instance, and Father had recruited Daffy to hear my bedtime prayers, she had taught me to recite them in Pig Latin, and we had rolled among the down-filled pillows, laughing until we nearly split.

"Od-gay ess-blay Ather-fay, Eely-fay, and Issis-may Ullet-may. And Ogger-day, oo-tay!"

But over the years, something had changed between my sisters and me.

A little hurt, I reached for a volume that lay on top of the others: A Looking Glasse, for London and Englande. It was a book, I thought, that would appeal to Feely, since she was mad about mirrors. Perhaps I would purchase it myself, and store it away against the unlikely day when I might feel like giving her a gift, or a peace offering. Stranger things had happened.

Riffling through its pages, I saw at once that it was not a novel, but a play--full of characters' names and what each of them said. Someone named Adam was talking to a clown:

". . . a cup of ale without a wench, why, alas, 'tis like an egg without salt or a red herring without mustard."

What a perfect motto for a certain someone, I thought, glancing across to where Ned was now grazing away at my sister's neck as she pretended not to notice. On more than one occasion I'd seen Ned sitting at his chores in the courtyard of the Thirteen Drakes with a tankard of ale--and sometimes Mary Stoker, the landlord's daughter--at his elbow. I realized with an unexpected shock that without either ale or a female within easy reach, Ned was somehow incomplete. Why hadn't I noticed that before? Perhaps, like Dr. Watson on the wireless in A Scandal in Bohemia, there are times that I see, but do not observe. This was something I needed to think about.

"Your handiwork, I suppose?" Daffy said suddenly, putting down a book and picking up another. She gestured towards the small knot of villagers who stood gawking at the smoking ruins of the Gypsy's tent. "It has Flavia de Luce written all over it."

"Sucks to you," I said. "I was going to help carry your stupid books home, but now you can jolly well lug them yourself."

"Oh, do stop it!" she said, clutching at my sleeve. "Please desist. My heartstrings are playing Mozart's Requiem, and a fugitive tear is making its way to my right eye, even as we speak."

I wandered away with a careless whistle. I'd deal with her insolence later.

"Ow! Leave off, Brookie! You're 'urtin' me."

The whining voice was coming from somewhere behind the shove ha'penny booth and, when I recognized it as belonging to Colin Prout, I stopped to listen.

By flattening myself against the stone wall of the church and keeping well back behind the canvas that draped the raffle booth, I could eavesdrop in safety. Even better, I was pleased to find that I had an unexpectedly clear view of Colin through the gaps in the booth's raw lumber.

He was dancing at the end of Brookie Harewood's arm like a great spectacled fish, his thick eyeglasses knocked askew, his dirty blond hair a hayrick, his large, damp mouth hanging open, gasping for air.

"Leave off. I didn't do nothin'."

With his other hand, Brookie took hold of the seat of Colin's baggy trousers and swiveled him round to face the smoking remains of the Gypsy's tent.

"Who did that, then, eh?" he demanded, shaking the boy to accentuate his words. "Where there's smoke, there's fire. Where there's fire, there's matches. And where there's matches, there's Colin Prout."

" 'Ere," Colin said, trying to ram a hand into his pocket. "Count 'em! You just count 'em, Brookie. Same number as I had yesterday. Three. I ain't used a one."

As Brookie released his grip, Colin fell to the ground, rolled over on his elbows, dug into his trouser pocket, and produced a box of wooden matches, which he waved at his tormentor.

Brookie raised his head and sniffed the air, as if for guidance. His greasy cap and India rubber boots, his long moleskin coat and, in spite of the hot summer weather, a woolen scarf that clung like a scarlet serpent to his bulldog neck made him look like a rat catcher out of Dickens.

Before I could even wonder what to do, Colin had scrambled to his feet, and the two of them had ambled away across the churchyard, Colin dusting himself off and shrugging elaborately, as though he didn't care.

I suppose I should have stepped out from behind the booth, admitted I was responsible for the fire, and demanded that Brookie release the boy. If he refused, I could easily have run for the vicar, or called for any one of the other able-bodied men who were within earshot. But I didn't. And the simple reason, I realized with a little chill, was this: I was afraid of Brookie Harewood.

From the Hardcover edition.

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A Red Herring Without Mustard: A Flavia de Luce Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 117 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's unfair to go on here and give a bad rating because you don't agree with BN pricing. (and it is 9.99)On that note... Please read this book! If you loved the other books in this series...you won't be disappointed! They say don't judge a book by it's cover...in this case, DON'T JUDGE A BOOK BY ONE PERSONS UNFAIR RATING!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all other books in this series, but have not yeat read this one - based on the previoius two I'll go out on a limb and give it four stars. I also own a Kindle. The reviews should be limited to the book, don't slam the book due to B&N business practises. I agree it's ridiculous to pay more than paperback (and 25% more than a competitor's price) - but that is not under the author's control!
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Bishop's Lacey, England the Gypsy looks into her crystal ball to inform eleven year old chemist and amateur sleuth Flavia de Luce her future. However, the hag tells her she has never in her life seen a darker future. Flavia is not one to be concerned as the child deals with an odd household on their Buckshaw Estate. Her widowed father the Colonel lives for his philately collection; her oldest sister Ophelia "Feely" loves her music; and the middle sister thirteen years old "Daffy" Daphne hides in her books. Flavia, who never met her mother Harriet (outside the womb that is), uses her late great-Uncle Tarquin's fully loaded chem lab as her escapism into the savory world of poison. Soon after the dark reading, Flavia finds the corpse of the ancient Gypsy. Someone stabbed the woman to death in her wagon. Flavia on her bike Gladys investigates the homicide while she contemplates that the murder appears to be one of passion perhaps vengeance; similar to what she thrives for against her older siblings though not with murderous malice. Instead of solving this killing, Flavia finds a second body. Her inquiry leads to an intriguing clue to what she considers the key mystery. This is a terrific post WWII whimsical amateur sleuth as Flavia follows the murder clues while eluding the demands of her older sisters and her father is to busy with his stamps. As with her previous cases (see The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag), the tweener keeps the story line focused as she investigates two homicides in which the clues twist into something personal. Harriet Klausner
hanro More than 1 year ago
Flavia: "I have no fear of the dead. Indeed in my own limited experience I have found them to produce in me a feeling that is quite the opposite of fear. A dead body is much more fascinating than a live one and I have learned that most corpses tell better stories. I’d had the good fortune of seeing several of them in my time.”
AvalonBound More than 1 year ago
It's the third book I've read in the Flavia de Luce series, so obviously I do love something about these books. However, I think emotion bled into some of my star rating. It's just so hard to dislike 11 year old Flavia and this series is the perfect escape when that's exactly what you're looking for. I do a lot of willing suspension of disbelief in these books, but possibly a little more in this one. Flavia's intellect is clearly superior and her knowledge of chemistry is remarkable...a little too remarkable at times. At eleven she can't possibly know every single reaction and chemical makeup of all things in the Universe, and yet she apparently does. I really could have done without knowing the elements of the skin on top of a cold mug of formerly hot chocolate and I think everyone else could have done too. It added nothing to the story. What does add to the story for me is the believable torment from her sisters, both of whom must miss their mother so much that they have misdirected their grief by taking it out on Flavia, who was only one year old when their mother died in a mountain climbing accident and does not remember her. And additional tension is created from the financial difficulties of their father, who appears poised at the precipice of bankruptcy at all times. What I don't understand is how they have not yet resolved his wife's estate after ten years. There is also a fair bit of contrived plot in this, but when did that ever stop Bradley before? I still enjoy watching Flavia dart about the countryside on faithful old Gladys (her bike) and she does move the story forward with her sleuthing in a convincing way. Never mind that bodies seem to litter Buckshaw's grounds like confetti throughout Flavia's short career as a detective. It is still fun and eminently readable. Bradley is an engaging author and Flavia is an adorable protagonist.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The child who took down license plate number to the master chemist she is becoming is absolutely delightful, thrilling, informative, well set with characters that unfold and is a good read. I read these books because I like Agatha Christie and good mysteries. This one is a cliffhanger. So many questions unanswered but some are answered. I do question the recent inclusion in many of these continuing stories, the Harry Potter series for one, that the past books summaries appear on pages of the books throughout as part of the story. I just wonder why the third story with all it's content could not be written like the first.
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
Can Flavia Sift Through the Red Herrings? An eleven-year-old who solves murders. That might not seem like a normal protagonist for a series aimed at adults, but Alan Bradley has done a remarkable job of doing just that with Flavia DeLuce. A Red Herring Without Mustard is her third case, and it’s another enjoyable read. When a gypsy woman pulls into town, Flavia can’t resist getting her fortune read. It turns out this woman has visit the village of Bishop’s Lacey in the past and has even stayed in the pasture behind the de Luce family home. After Flavia accidentally burns down the woman’s tent, she feels responsible for giving the gypsy a place to stay and suggests that she once again camp in that pasture. Hours later, the gypsy has been attacked and is fighting for her life. Flavia’s feelings of responsibility only grow, and she sets out to find the person responsible for the vicious act. With the path seeming to lead through a dead body and several competing theories, can Flavia separate what really is happened from the red herrings? Actually, seeing how everything came together in the end was one of my favorite things in the book. No, I’m not going to spoil anything, but this really is a well plotted novel with a few things I thought were superfluous actually tying in to the main story in the end. That’s not to say there aren’t a few passages that couldn’t have been trimmed. Flavia’s inner monologue at times distracts from the story as it is unfolding. A little of it is fun and cute and realistic for an eleven-year-old, but it could have been used more sparely in the book. Likewise, I must say that Flavia herself can become a bit annoying. There were times I wanted to smack some sense into her, which is probably proof that she is a realistic eleven-year-old. Fortunately, she did get some talking to by other characters a couple of times that covered much of what I wanted to say to her. The rest of the cast are equally as well developed and interesting to spend time with. Since Flavia is our narrator, we see them through her eyes, but the result are characters we come to care about. The series is set in 1950 England, and I enjoy getting a visit to another time and place. Bishop’s Lacey is a small village, so this is very much a different time and place, and that is evoked completely in these pages. Having now listened to three of the books this year, I find watching some threads that carry through the books quite interesting. While nothing is resolved yet, something that was mentioned in book one becomes a bigger sub-plot here. Meanwhile, Flavia has been involved in three murders in three months. I’d worry if she weren’t enjoying herself so much. As I just hinted, yes, I listened to the unabridged audio again. Jane Entwistle is still narrating them, and if she ever stops I don’t know what I will do. Even if I were to pick up a book and read it, I’d still hear her voice in my head. And that’s a good thing because she provides such enthusiasm in the narration you can’t help but picture Flavia as you listen, yet she never goes over the top. I definitely plan to continue visiting Bishop’s Lacey and Flavia de Luce next year. I’m curious to see where the family and other characters we’ve already come to know go next. And if you are looking for a different mystery, be sure to pick up A Red Herring Without Mustard today and get lots in a good story.
InTheBookcase More than 1 year ago
A delicious novel with a murder mystery that none other than 11 year old Flavia can solve. The story is so rich with details of 1950's England, in a simple little village, where murder seems to be commonplace. The story does involve gypsies and a bit of fortune-telling (not my favorites features). But still... I loved reading "A Red Herring Without Mustard"!
pm42 More than 1 year ago
Situations are constantly moving with questions left to answered when more information is gathered.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the characters, especially when Flavia talks to her beloved bike! Can't wait for the next adventure.
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Glacial is such a fun character, and her sleuthing is entertaining. This series is an enjoyable read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So Sweet!
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Flavia continues her feud with her sisters and learns a little mire about her mother and father. She also discovers a surprise that Harriet was planning to give Father when she was to return after the last expedition when she disappeared.
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Charming and unforgetable characters and wonderful use of lsanguage makes you hunger for more
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