Friday, February 26, 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Well, Flavia de Luce isn't Lord Peter Wimsey, but I still enjoyed this mystery novel with an 11-year-old heroine set in 1950's rural England. When I saw a summary of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie on Semicolon's list of Top 12 Adult Books Published in 2009, I immediately put it on hold at my library.

Flavia is a very precocious and presumptuous young lady. She has a graduate student's knowledge of chemistry and an analytical mind which quickly absorbs and processes details. So when she finds a man breathing his last in the cucumber patch of the family estate, she's thrilled (not terrified) and immediately begins to piece the puzzle together, always managing to stay one step ahead of the police inspector.

I was a little unsure about Flavia at first. Her eccentricities have not endeared her to her two older sisters, and there is an ongoing rivalry between them wherein Flavia uses her chemistry skills to inflict various, shall we say, discomforts. It's a little unsettling for an 11-year-old character to be talking about poison so frequently, not to mention the fact that the detective could just as easily be the villain, at least in the matter of skill and resources.

In spite of this little uncertainty, I soon grew sympathetic toward Flavia. Her family situation is unusual since her mother died when she was a baby, her father is obsessed with his stamp collection, her oldest sister is consumed with her appearance, and the middle sister lives in books (now that I could sympathize with immediately!). As for the mystery, it was not so very complicated, but there were enough suspicious characters to keep me guessing most of the way through. I thought the climactic ending was a bit overdone, but it wrapped things up neatly and with a touch of humor, at least.

Mysteries are an ideal genre for serials, and I'm glad to know that Mr. Bradley has another Flavia de Luce mystery scheduled to be released in less than two weeks. I've already placed a hold on The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag at my library!


Jennifer said...

I've heard a lot of great things about this book. I have it on my Wish List. It sounds like a great read and a book I would enjoy. I really enjoyed your review.

Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good one. I need to read more detective fiction!

M said...

I read this over Christmas because my mom bought it for me. I never came around to liking Flavia so I didn't really enjoy it. My "thing" with mysteries is that I have to like the protagonist... which is why I really don't like Agatha Christies even though I can see that the mysteries are well-crafted: both Miss Marple and Hercule Poiroit drive me crazy!

On the other hand I did finish it in one sitting ... so I must not have hated it that much!


Jennifer, Snapshot said...

I've also heard good things about this one, and since there's going to be a new one, I think that I need to check it out!