Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

November 1, 2010 Whitney Review 5 Comments

Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the PieThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Series: Flavia de Luce #1
Published by Delacorte Press on April 28, 2009
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 374
Source: Bought

It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

Having just finished The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo I thought I would be hard pressed  to come across as unique a heroine as Lisabeth  Salander, but that was before I met Flavia.

Flavia de Luce is an 11-year-old chemistry enthusiast and with her candied insight and dry sense of humor comes off like a 40-year-old stuck in an 11-year old’s body.  Her mother Harriett died in a mountaineering accident when she was one and is left with her two older sisters Ophelia, who is obsessed with her looks and Daphne, who is obsessed with books, both insisting that she was adopted.  Her father has an obsession with stamp collecting and tends to keep to himself, leaving the eccentric housekeeper Mrs. Mullet and the jack of all trades, Dogger in charge of the children.

Everyday life changes at Buckshaw Manor when they find a jack snipe dead on their doorstep with a stamp penetrated through its beak.  Twenty-four hours later, Flavia watches a man take his last breath of air in the cucumber patch.  Even though the police are on the case the young Madam Currie in the making feels they are doing an insufficient job and with her knowledge of poisons hops on her bicycle Gladys determined to solve the crime herself.

Due to her mad scientist persona she accomplishes much more than giving her sister poison ivy via lip-stick but deduces methods of death through her keen sense of smell and impeccable hearing.  I could just picture her saying “Elementary, my dear Watson”.  Flavia is a breath of fresh air with the likes of her character not having been seen since Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew, making for a sharp original series.


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