Friday, July 13, 2012

Gypsies, scamps, and thieves

Title: A Red Herring Without Mustard
Author: Alan Bradley
Bookmark: library receipt

Remember the Angela Lansbury series "Murder, She Wrote"?  My cousin said that she'd never go to Cabot Cove or go on vacation with Jessica Fletcher because "all her friends get killed."  As much as I enjoy the Flavia de Luce books, I'm starting to wonder about the safety of the sleepy English village where she lives.  By the series' own chronology, only a couple months have passed since the first book, and in that time (including this book) three people have been murdered, one savagely beaten, two cold cases involving the deaths of children have been uncovered, and in this book, during the course of her investigations, Flavia also cracks open an antiquities forging ring.  I came from a much larger town, and in three decades, we've had maybe a dozen good murder cases.  Bishop's Lacey had three in two months.  Wow.

I mean, I get it--if she ages naturally, eventually she'll stop being an endearingly clever little girl and become a cloyingly clever teenager (with even fewer friends), but there has to be a good way around that, right?

Don't get me wrong--I still loved the book.  Flavia starts by accidentally torching a gypsy's fortune-telling tent at the church bazaar, then offers a place to park her caravan on the family estate.  When she discovers that the old woman has been beaten nearly to death, her quick actions save the gypsy's life, and she feels compelled (naturally) to find the culprit.

I liked that this book broke a couple patterns of the series, even though I missed some of those patterns (no chemistry-based revenge upon the evil sisters, far less time with Dogger), because it made things feel less formulaic.  I've been asked "was it as good as the others?  Was it better than the others?" and I don't really know how to answer.  I like all of them; they're well-wrought stories with engaging characters and excellent humor.  Reading each one of them makes me want to read the next one, write something, learn about chemistry, ride my bike, and find a dead body.  What more could you ask from a murder mystery?

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posted by reyn at 7:35 AM


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