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The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie

The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie by Alan Bradley - Mystery Fiction

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Simply enchanting

  • Feb 11, 2010
  • by

Once again, here's another book I bought when it came out which has sat lingering on my shelves forever.  I have to quit doing that, because this one turned out to be a gem -- an absolute gem of a book. Not only did I fall in love with the main character, Flavia deLuce, but the author is one heck of a writer.

Set in the English countryside near the village of Bishop's Lacey in 1950,  eleven year old Flavia 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.

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More The Sweetness At The Bottom Of... reviews
Quick Tip by . May 18, 2010
enjoying the ride so far... great beach/park reading that sweeps you to another time & place. will post review once finished!
review by . September 18, 2009
The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie
   Flavia de Luce lives in a mansion called Buckshaw, in the town of Bishop's Lacey, with her two sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, her mostly silent father Colonel de Luce, and old gardner/handyman Dogger.  A deceased relative Tarquin "Tar" de Luce built a wing on the east end and had a laboratory installed there.  This room captured Flavia's attention at an early age, and now at eleven she is a true chemist.   Their housekeeper, Mrs. Mullet, consistently bakes custard …
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Nancy Oakes ()
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Hi! I'm a very avid reader and book collector and I love to cook. Aside from my family, reading and cooking are my two passions in life. I'm here on Lunch.com because I am looking for people with similar … more
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Product Description
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 ...
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ISBN-10: 0385342306
ISBN-13: 978-0385342308
Author: Alan Bradley
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Delacorte Press (April 28, 2009)
Date Published: (April 28, 2009)
Format: Hardcover: 384 pages , Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.2 x 1 inches
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