Flavia had asked the old Gypsy woman to tell her fortune, but never expected to stumble across the poor soul, bludgeoned in the wee hours in her own caravan. Was this an act of retribution by those convinced that the soothsayer had 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? Had it something to do with the weird sect who met at the river to practice their secret rites? While still pondering the possibilities, Flavia stumbles upon another corpse—that of a notorious layabout who had been caught prowling about the de Luce’s drawing room.
Pedaling Gladys, her faithful bicycle, across the countryside in search of clues to both crimes, Flavia uncovers some odd new twists. Most intriguing is her introduction to an elegant artist with a very special object in her possession—a portrait that sheds light on the biggest mystery of all: Who is Flavia?
As the red herrings pile up, Flavia must sort through clues fishy and foul to untangle dark deeds and dangerous secrets.
First Line: "You frighten me," the Gypsy said. "Never have I seen my crystal ball so filled with darkness."
My Thoughts: I love the imaginative titles Alan Bradley comes up with for this series. Ever since I read the first one, Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, I've been hooked on these stories. This was another fun romp around the 1950s English country side with Flavia and her faithful bike Gladys (an adventurous female with Dunlop tires, three speeds and a forgiving disposition) as she seeks clues, gets into trouble and "helps" the local police. As the title suggests there are indeed red herrings, many of them, to be found.
Flavia is a precocious, self aware eleven year old who has a GREAT interest in all things chemical. It helps that the family home is equipped with a chemical laboratory that a great uncle established. She has claimed it as her own. For all her intelligence and talent, Flavia is still a typical eleven year old when it comes to dealing with family problems, sibling rivalry and other mundane bits of life. I think you'll like this charming book! Get it and read it.