Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1) 
Summary (From Goodreads): 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.

Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was a great young adult mystery novel. It had a lot of elements going for it that I really like. It features a quirky small town, an old mansion, colorful characters, an intriguing mystery, and a strong, intelligent protagonist. Flavia de Luce is the lovechild of Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew. She is full of passion and curiosity, and still seems like a kid even if she is very mature for her age.

Buckshaw, the mansion where Flavia and her family lives, is beautifully detailed by Alan Bradley, as is Bishop's Lacey, the nearby village. It's full of interesting locations and people, which adds a lot of depth to the story. It isn't just about Flavia walking around Buckshaw and Bishop's Lacey. Other characters are living their lives and have their own storylines, which makes everything feel very real.

The mystery itself was rather slow going, but I didn't mind because I enjoyed reading about the other inhabitants of Buckshaw and Bishop's Lacey, something that probably would have been lost had Bradley increased the pace of the mystery. Things do pick up in the last hundred pages or so, as the case comes together. I'm really looking forward to reading the next book in the series. 

Bottom Line: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is an enchanting mystery novel with a great setting and characters. A perfect read for a lazy summer's day!



  1. I loved this book. I read the second one too. But, even though Flavia is 11 years old, I don't think these are YA. I don't think many teens would enjoy these. Some, but not a wide appeal. Great review!

  2. I loved it too! While it may not be classified as YA I think that this series is a great starter for those that are interested in the mystery genre, much like the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew series. Thanks for the comment!