Book Review: SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley

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Series: Flavia de Luce, #1
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Released: April 28, 2009
Source: Borrowed from the library

In his wickedly brilliant first novel, Debut Dagger Award winner Alan Bradley introduces one of the most singular and engaging heroines in recent fiction: eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. It is the summer of 1950—and a series of inexplicable events has struck Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia’s family calls home. A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. 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.”

To Flavia the investigation is the stuff of science: full of possibilities, contradictions, and connections. Soon her father, a man raising his three daughters alone, is seized, accused of murder. And in a police cell, during a violent thunderstorm, Colonel de Luce tells his daughter an astounding story—of a schoolboy friendship turned ugly, of a priceless object that vanished in a bizarre and brazen act of thievery, of a Latin teacher who flung himself to his death from the school’s tower thirty years before. Now Flavia is armed with more than enough knowledge to tie two distant deaths together, to examine new suspects, and begin a search that will lead her all the way to the King of England himself. Of this much the girl is sure: her father is innocent of murder—but protecting her and her sisters from something even worse…

———

Eleven-year old Flavia de Luce is an inquisitive girl and wise beyond her years. She is obsessed with chemistry and poisons, and delights in aggravating her two older sisters to no end. The most fascinating thing to ever happen to Flavia was watching a man’s life expire in her family’s cucumber patch. When her father Colonel de Luce is arrested for killing the man, Flavia sets out on her bicycle to uncover the truth. Her clues: a dead black bird on the front stoop, an odd orange postage stamp, and the final mysterious word the murder victim uttered.

I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time, and when I found it at the library, I snatched it up. Some parts of the book worked for me and others didn’t. I thought the story was well-written and researched, and it gives the reader a glimpse of English small town life just after WWII. Of course, the highlight of the book was Miss Flavia. She is quite a unique protagonist in the mystery genre. This clever and precocious girl used her smarts to deduce who done it well before the police detectives. It took several chapters to get used to the prose, and much of the chemistry talk was lost on me. I also thought that the pacing of the story was slow, just too wordy and overly descriptive in spots.

THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE was definitely worth reading. It’s similar to the cozy mysteries I love – quaint setting, no graphic scenes, and a clever amateur sleuth. I’ll probably give the next Flavia book a try, though I may stick to the library with this series.

Rating: 3 Stars

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley

  1. I love Flavia. I’ve read every book in the series, and they get better with each one. The first one was my least favorite, BTW. The last one, Speaking from Among the Bones ended in a HUGE cliffhanger. I can’t wait for the next one!!!

    • Hmm, the first one what your least favorite? That makes me feel better! :-) I would like to continue the series – glad to hear they got better for you.

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