Flavia Sabina de Luce is mad about chemistry, loves poisons, and is not above dissolving her older sister’s pearls in acid as an act of revenge. Aged 11, she lives with two sisters, her distant and eccentric father, and a couple of retainers in an old manor house in post-Second World War England. She is also the narrator of the first in a planned series of detective novels by Alan Bradley. Flavia tells a pretty good tale. Late one night, she overhears her beloved father arguing with a red-haired man, and before morning she finds the stranger dying in the garden. Whipping around the countryside on her trusty bike, Gladys, she unravels this mystery, as well as others that the local police find puzzling. Is she Harriet the Spy morphed into a detective, or a plucky refugee from any number of British children’s books? Neither, it seems. Although the plot outline sounds like it would appeal to readers in the nine-to-12 age range, Flavia and the series are intended primarily for the adult market. Evidently, the hope is that Flavia will enchant readers the way another unlikely heroine, Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, has. Bradley succeeds in making Flavia’s passion for chemistry believable, but the first part of the book creaks a bit, and the cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter are overdone. An early chapter closes: “Father bent down for a closer look, then gave a little gasp. And suddenly he was clutching at his throat, his hands shaking like aspen leaves in autumn, his face the colour of sodden ashes.” A few pages later, the police inspector says ominously, “Flavia … I’d like a word with you. Inside.” This heavy-handedness may make some readers cross, but those who enjoy a nice puzzle mystery are advised to keep reading. Flavia is a smart girl who figures things out impressively. Whether she’ll also charm a world of adult readers remains to be seen.
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"Sure in its story, pace and voice, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
deliciously mixes all the ingredients of great storytelling.The kind of novel you can pass on to any reader knowing their pleasure is assured."
— Andrew Pyper, author of The Killing Circle
"A wickedly clever story, a dead true and original voice, and an English country house in the summer: Alexander McCall Smith meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Please, please, Mr. Bradley, tell me we'll be seeing Flavia again soon?"
— Laurie R. King, New York Times
bestselling author of The Game
“One of the hottest reads of 2009.”
— The Times
“Alan Bradley brews a bubbly beaker of fun in his devilishly clever, wickedly amusing debut mystery, launching an eleven-year-old heroine with a passion for chemistry — and revenge! What a delightful, original book!”
— Carolyn Hart, Anthony and Agatha award-winning author of Death Walked In
“Alan Bradley’s marvelous book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
, is a fantastic read, a winner. Flavia walks right off the page and follows me through my day. I can hardly wait for the next book. Bravo.”
— Louise Penny, acclaimed author of Still Life
Praise from the CWA Dagger Award judges:
“The most original of the bunch, I think, with a deliciously deceptive opening which really sets the tone of macabre fun. Flavia is a wonderful creation, along with the rest of her eccentric family, and makes for a highly engaging sleuth. Think the Mitfords, as imagined by Dorothy L Sayers. The plot, with its intriguing philatelic elements, is nicely ingenious and delivers a very good end, with a fun twist. Would make very good Sunday night telly, I think.”
“I adored this! Our heroine is refreshingly youthful, funny and sharp and the author creates such a strong sense of time and place. Flavia’s eccentric family are delightful and I love seeing them interact within their crazy home. There are also interesting depths to the plot — the stamp collecting, the chemistry experiments, and the acknowledgement of past events and how they have affected these characters. The author’s tone is very tongue-in-cheek and offers something quite different in this genre, and the story is cleverly structured and beautifully written. This doesn’t read like a first novel. Assuming the mystery itself will be as enticing and smoothly handled as the opening, I can see Flavia solving crimes into adulthood. Great title too!”
“Really adored the voice of the characters in this — especially Flavia, the spirited main protagonist — and the sense of place is beautifully described, particularly when telling the history of the house and its inhabitants. The family unit, comprising of the taciturn, introspective Colonel and his three daughters is well written, humorous and the sibling relationships very realistic. The author should be praised for creating a work that has nostalgic interest as well as a murder mystery, in places this almost reads like an Enid Blyton novel for adults!”From the Hardcover edition.
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