A Red Herring Without Mustard

When I want to read a story with little tension and lots of humor, Flavia de Luce has become one of my standards. Alan Bradley has created a great sleuth in 10, now 11, year old Flavia, chemistry wiz and solver of puzzles.

In this, the third of eight novels, Flavia saves the life of a Gypsy and goes on to uncover her attempted murderer. Along the way, she exposes two other crimes and wrestles with the knowledge that her father is slowly selling off parts of the decaying manor house.

For entertainment, this is a five-star.

Mike Lawrence

One Corpse Too Many

I had to get right back to Brother Cadfael. This is the second of the series.

The story is set against the backdrop of the civil war between Maud (Matilda) and Stephen for possession of the throne of England in 1138 AD. After 19 years of war, Stephen gained full control, but had to make an agreement with Maud that her son would become king next in line.

In this story, Stephen brings his army to Shrewsbury to lay siege to the castle of an opponent. With the taking of the castle, the king ordered the deaths of all 94 captives as a warning to all who oppose him.

When Brother Cadfael supervises the burial, he discovers an extra body, then discovers that one of the body was killed by garrote. Following the clues, he is led to the site of the death where he discovers the jeweled top of the hilt of a dagger, the key to identifying the murderer.

It is not so simple, naturally. There are four other key characters with their own story lines. In the end, the truth is hard-won.

As often happens in Ellis’s books, some events seem too convenient, and we never fear for the life or well-being of the good Brother.

Still, an enjoyable read

Mike Lawrence