The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, Bk 1)
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Flavia de Luce, Bk 1 Author:Alan Bradley Introducing Flavia de Luce, a new breed of detective heroine: she's a pigtailed eleven-year-old with a penchant for poison, and things get interesting the day she finds a dead body in the cucumber patch... — Great literary crime detectives aren't always born; they're sometimes discovered, blindfolded, and tied up in a dark closet by t... more »heir nasty older sisters. Flavia's bitter home life and vicious sibling rivalry inspire her solitary diversions and "strange talents" -- whether it's concocting poisons in the laboratory of their inherited Victorian house, plotting vengeance on Ophelia (17) and Daphne (13), or delving into the forbidden past of her taciturn, widowed father, Colonel de Luce. It comes as no surprise, then, that the material for her next scientific investigation will be that mysterious corpse.
Fearless and darkly imaginative, Flavia hurries to solve the murder and free her father of suspicion. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is entirely inventive, fast-paced, and quick-witted, with tongue-in-cheek humor that transcends the macabre seriousness of its subject.« less
Set in the English countryside near the village of Bishop's Lacey in 1950, eleven year old Flavia deLuce lives with two older sisters and her father, the family factotum Dogger and the part-time housekeeper and cook Mrs. Mullet at a decaying manor home called Buckshaw. Flavia's dad passes most of his time alone, collecting stamps and listening to music. Ophelia, the eldest sister, prides herself on her appearance, and then there's Daphne, who always has her nose stuck in a book. Flavia's mother died during a mountain-climbing trip in Tibet when Flavia was still very small, but her dad manages to hold the family together even though money is tight and the home needs major repairs. As the story opens, Mrs. Mullet discovers a dead bird with an antique stamp through its beak, and shortly thereafter, Flavia discovers a dying man in the garden. After all is said and done, Mr. deLuce is arrested, and Flavia's detective career begins in order to clear him.
What makes this story work is both the character of Flavia and the author's writing. It's often hard to remember sometimes that Flavia is only eleven, and the word precocious hardly begins to describe her. Because she's 11, people tend not to pay attention to her, and she's the most scheming little thing you can imagine. Her mind never stops working, she is as relentless as a pit bull when she's on to something, and she's brilliant -- she's a master of chemistry at her tender young age, and she sees all facets of the world around her in ways adults cannot. She has this wonderful gift of being able to make pretty much anyone tell her anything. At the same time, you get little glimpses into Flavia the little girl, such as when her sisters tease her, or when she thinks about her mother. As far as the author's writing, even though his main character is this precocious 11-year old girl, he still hangs on to the realities of post-war England. Dogger, for example, suffers what we would call post-traumatic stress disorder, after suffering through the atrocities of a POW camp. The family home, Buckshaw, once a beautiful and elegant manor, has seen better days. Bradley's characterizations are excellent, each person with his or her own voice and clearly-defined place in this story.And, most importantly, this story does not devolve into the realm of "cutesy" or sickeningly sweet at all. It's fun and yet at the same time, it's intelligent.
As far as the mystery goes, the whodunit is a bit transparent, but you really won't care because this book is so well written. You end up being engrossed in the world of Bishop's Lacey and in the deLuce family, and especially in Flavia, so while the core murder mystery is good, there's so much more going on that takes you over as a reader. I can highly recommend this book to anyone -- definitely one of my favorites for this reading year.
I first tried to read this book by listening to it on audio. I found it irritating and decided I just did not particularly like the reader. Then I tried to read it in the ordinary way and realized I still could not spend the time. My main issue is with the supposed 11 year old protagonist. I love ten and eleven year olds - I am a teacher of fifth graders - and I know some extraordinarily intelligent ones - but I just found the thinking/verbal/literary style of Flavia de Luce completely unbelievable. I can accept unbelievable, I think, if something else draws me in....for me, nothing did.
Ellen H. (eeeee) reviewed The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, Bk 1) on
Helpful Score: 2
eh, this was entertaining enough, but not great. The main character/detective is a little girl who is written as an eccentric, precocious, Wednesday Addams type. Unfortunately, instead of being charmingly strange, she falls rather flat, and is too adult to be realistic. The author doesn't do the best job of conveying his era either...instead of reading like atmospheric historical fiction, it tends to scream "look, look, I did historical research!" All in all, it is pretty good, but I'm not going to rush out and get other books in this series.
This is a most unusual but delightfully reading mystery. Flavia de Luce is eleven years old, the youngest of three motherless daughters who live with their reculsuve father in the family home, Buckshaw. Flavia is fascinated by chemistry and all its elements and compounds to the point that she researches and experiments with any that are intriguing, especially, poisons. One evening she eavesdrops on a heated conversation her father is having with a strange red-haired man. Later that night she finds the man dying in the cucumber bed. He utters only one word, "Vale," as he dies. Because of the overheard conversation, she thinks her father murdered the man. So do the police and he is arrested. Meanwhile, Flavia investigates the crime, uncovering clue after clue and fact after fact that eventually link this murder to one that occurred when her father was in school. Finally, she is able to put the clues together and discerns who the murderer must be but he comprehends what she has learned and ties her up so he can search for a valuable stamp stolen from the king's collection. You must read the novel for yourself to see how Flavia solves the crime and survives her capture and the murderer is eventually captured. A most entertaining read.