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Home > Book, Book Review, Mystery, Reviews > Book Review – The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley

Book Review – The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley

September 25, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Book Description:

Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009; Winner of the 2009 Agatha Award for Best First Novel; Winner of the 2010 Barry Award for Best First Novel; Winner of the 2010 Macavity Award for Best First Mystery; Winner of the 2007 Debut Dagger Award

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.”

About the Author
Alan Bradley has published many children’s stories as well as lifestyle and arts columns in Canadian newspapers. His adult stories have been broadcast on CBC Radio and published in various literary journals. He won the first Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children’s Literature.

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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by the 70-year-old-first time novelist Alan Bradley came highly recommended to me as a mystery series I shouldn’t miss.

Ms Flavia Sabina de Luce (the 11-year-old narrator of this book) is an organic chemistry prodigy (with a special genius for poisons AND avenging herself on her older sisters) who lives with her uppercrust family in a crumbling mansion called Buckshaw in the early 1950s English town of Bishop’s Lacey. With a distant father obsessed with stamps and teenage sisters Flavia has nothing in common with, the young girl spends most of her time alone tinkering with chemicals in her very own laboratory concocting poisons or learning useful skills like how to pick locks (from her only friend, the family gardener Dogger).  It is of course Flavia who ends up finding the dying man in their garden, and with her father arrested for the crime, Flavia sets out (with her trusty bike Gladys) to get to the bottom of the mystery. What follows is an absolutely entertaining 400+ pages where the unflappable child sleuth stays one step ahead of the local police (an Inspector Hewitt who is alternately bemused or exasperated by Flavia’s interference) while uncovering secrets from her father’s past, a connection with the death of her father’s beloved school professor, and even King George VI’s stolen rare stamp!

I suspect that I would be pretty exhausted with Ms Flavia if I spent any time with her in real life, but as a fictional character? Flavia just kicks ass! 🙂 I loved Flavia’s enthusiasm for science, her precocity, her supreme self-confidence, the fearlessness with which she faced everything and everyone …  if ever, my only complaint would be that Flavia just seemed waaay too knowledgeable to just be an 11-year-old kid. The girl I had in mind while I was reading was older – maybe a very smart 13 or 14 – which would also account for why she was allowed to run around totally unsupervised. And okay, my other complaint would be that the book just didn’t read ‘British’ at all to me (in comparison to say, an  Agatha Christie or PD James book) – maybe the setting should have stayed in the author’s native Canada? Just the way the language is used – certain phrasings or words that the author chose – just didn’t ring England to me.  Another problem for me was the time setting – it’s supposed to be 1950, but the book reads way earlier and more old-fashioned than that to me. Maybe 1920s or something. But other than these, I thought that this was a smart mystery, very entertaining and definitely had a unique heroine whom I could get behind!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Paperback edition, and Audible Audio Edition.

The eBook is also available at B&N, Apple iBookstore, Kobo books and Sony eBookstore.


For a second opinion – here’s some reviews of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by other bloggers:

  • Book Snob – “a well written, inventive and clever novel with a rollicking plot and endearing characters”
  • Reviews by Lola – “Bottom line: all the good things you’ve heard about this book recently are well founded”
  • Book Nympho – “so unique and interesting with a colorful cast of characters”

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