narfna’s #CBR5 Review #71: A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

red herringThis series has the best titles, and the best covers. They both convey this welcoming want for me, and I’m compelled to read them almost against my will. As of writing this, I’m actually four books in to the series, and unfortunately Bradley seems to be a bit hit or miss with his mysteries and sense of pacing (two of the four I’ve read so far have been weakest in the main-plot area), which is disappointing after the promise of that title and those covers.

Luckily, A Red Herring Without Mustard (book three) was pretty much up to snuff. Bradley leaps right into the goings-on of the central mystery plot and allows the appropriate amount of time for Flavia to investigate, without resorting to convenient coincidences to give her clues. The mystery itself was also delightfully wacky and strayed from the traditional whodunnit arc that the other three books have followed. The main mysteries that Flavia has to solve aren’t even murders, and (spoiler) the one that everyone thinks is a murder turns out not to be after all. Plus Bradley introduces this wacky religion that I loved and that lent a bit of local color to the story.

Luckily, even when Bradley’s plots are weak, he’s still got great characters to play with. And they’re even more fun to read about when surrounded by a competent mystery (actually three mysteries in one), like in this one. Flavia and her family are all very likable, and I continue to anticipate the day when Bradley finally starts answering some of the ongoing questions/mysteries from the series. What really happened to Flavia’s mother? Why do her sisters treat her like a monster? What’s up with Dogger? I’m a bit frustrated that Bradley’s publisher has expanded the series from its original intended length of six books to at least ten (possibly more) because that means I’ll just have to wait longer. I hope Bradley doesn’t try to milk this series, and that he ends it before he’s sucked it dry of what makes it fun.

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