Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A Red Herring Without Mustard

This third outing of Alan Bradley's irrepressible Flavia De Luce gets the series back up to top form. Flavia saves the life of an old Gypsy fortune-teller who has been beaten and left for dead. Ok our young heroine had almost managed to burn her to a crisp the previous evening but the less said about such details the better. Flavia sets out to track down the assailant, trampling over several crime scenes in the process, bamboozling the local constabulary and driving her family to new levels of embarrassment. Flavia can't resist the siren call of an unsolved serious misdemeanor, so when a body is found hung on an ornamental fountain in the grounds of Buckshaw Flavia is ecstatic. Never mind justice - think of the opportunities to prove her cleverness to that lovely man Inspector Hewitt. Perhaps he'll even invite her to tea.
The second book stepped over the line a few times with the added absurdities of the world of the puppet show. The fun, tongue in cheek adventures of Flavia combined with the exaggerated staginess of puppeteering didn't quite complement each other. This one is much more to my liking. We also get the introduction of a new character called Porcelain Lee who is a great inclusion, mainly because of her ability to bamboozle the bamboozler. She also gets a wonderful scene homaging perhaps Du Maurier's Rebecca, as she appears on the staircase dressed as Flavia's late mother Harriet. It's the ability to bring off that sort of a poignant vibe counterpointing the cheeky adventures of our precocious investigator that sets these books aside from a lot of its competitors. Bravo to Mr Bradley. And please sir, can we have some more.

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