Monday, January 25, 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley

Summary: 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….

An enthralling mystery, a piercing depiction of class and society, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a masterfully told tale of deceptions—and a rich literary delight.
Summary from back of book, cover photo from

My Review: I was on the reserve list at the library for months before I got my hands on this book but the wait was completely worth it. Flavia is the protagonist in this novel and I couldn't have adored her more. She is brilliant, with a love for chemistry- especially poisons, yet quirky, cunning and unpredictable. She is the youngest child with two older sisters who taunt her relentlessly but she knows how to extract her revenge.

When Flavia discovers a dead body in her garden the mystery begins and unravels at an ideal pace. And who better to solve this one than Flavia? She begins to dig into her father's past and finds startling revelations. Working to prove her father's innocence, Flavia will stop at nothing.

Set in the 1950's in Britain, this book is filled with delightful humor. Though the book takes the reader through moments of intense suspense, the ending comes as little surprise. This novel is more about Flavia's brilliant deductive reasoning and evidence extraction than it is about who actually committed the crime. Of course, along the way Flavia gets herself in some sticky situations and makes some surprising discoveries about herself.

This charming book is sure to leave one smiling. Though this mystery is marketed towards adults, it is free from offensive language and lewd situations making it the perfect book for young adults. This is just the first in a series of Flavia mysteries. The next book, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, is set to release in March. I'm excited to see how Flavia's character develops and where the author will take our unlikely heroine next.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

To sum it up: An utterly enjoyable, modern Nancy Drew-type mystery.


Jennifer said...

I'll be reading this in the next week or so and am looking forward to it. It sounds delightful! Thanks for the review!!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I loved this book and can't wait for the second installment --out soon. Great review.

Anonymous said...

Loved both books in the series, and have the third on pre-order. Just found your site quite accidentally, and I'm really enjoying it.

MindySue said...

So glad you like it! Have fun!


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