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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Alan Bradley , Jayne Entwistle
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 25 2011
It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, 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.”


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Description

Quill & Quire

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"While Flavia De Luce is winning your heart, she may also be poisoning your tea. She's the most wickedly funny sleuth in years, brilliant, unpredictable, unflappable—and only eleven. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie offers the freshest new voice in mystery yet."—Charles Todd, author of The Ian Rutledge series

"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, author of the Mary Russell series

“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, author of Still Life

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie offers the reader the precious gift of a richly imagined and luscious new world–but uniquely so, for this is the world of Flavia Sabina de Luce: an eleven-year-old, utterly winning, and altogether delightfully nasty piece of work. An outright pleasure from beginning to end.”—Gordon Dahlquist¸ author of The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

"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, author of the Death on Demand series

“Utterly charming! Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce proves to be one of the most precocious, resourceful, and well, just plain dangerous, heroines around. Evildoers–and big sisters–beware!”—Lisa Gardner, author of Say Goodbye

"Flavia is an engagingly smart new sleuth with a flair for bringing out the child–and the detective–in all of us."—Christopher Fowler, author of the Peculiar Crimes Unit series

“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 it assured.”—Andrew Pyper, author of the The Killing Circle

“Told through the observations of science-experimenting snoop of an 11-year-old girl, this jolly-good-fun murder mystery is as indulgent as a Bunty annual. Flavia de Luce, daughter to a philatelist colonel father and late mother, who dies when she was a baby, finds a body in the cucumber patch. In the twists and turns that ensue, centering around the nesting habits of the snipe and the last word of the dead man, she proves herself as indomitable a sleuth as you would expect a girl who says “Oh, piffle” to be.—Good Housekeeping, UK

“In June 1950’s, very-nearly-eleven year old Flavia de Luce, rising above the torments of her two older sisters and plotting revenge in her Victorian chemistry lab, is intrigued by the mystery of snipe with a rare stamp in its beak, found on the doorstep of the crumbling de Luce country seat. And she is astonished by the effect the dead bird has on her stamp-obsessed father, the Colonel. When something much worse is found in the cucumber patch and family secrets begin to unravel, Flavia has to use all her deductive powers to solve a mystery and a crime. At once precocious and endearing, Flavia is a marvelous character. Quirkily appealing, this is definitely a crime novel with a difference.” –Choice Magazine, “Book of the Month.”

“Brilliant, irresistible and incorrigible, Flavia has a long future ahead of her…Bradley’s mystery debut is a standout. “—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Fun for the reader…. Fans of Louise Fitzhugh's iconic Harriet the Spy will welcome 11-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce, the heroine of … Bradley's rollicking debut.”—Publishers Weekly

“A delightful whodunit.…hilarious, eccentric and mischievous.”—Tangled Web, UK

“An absolute treat. It is original, clever, entertaining and funny….an extraordinary maze of mystery and intrigue…driving the reader to turn those pages in glorious anticipation….a terrific book, so different to anything.”—Material Witness

“Oh how astonishing and pleasing is genuine originality!....I simply cannot recall the last time I so enjoyed being the company of a first-person narrator….Bradley has a simply astonishing gift for putting simile and analogy in Flavia’s mouth…the plot is a splendid piece of hokum with some pleasing deduction and an excellent historical back-story….This is a book which triumphantly succeeds in its objectives of charming and delighting. And on top of that it is genuinely original….we may well be talking in a few years about one of the great voices and great series of mystery fiction. I resort to — and it is very, very rarely that I use this — that old cliché, a must-read.” –Reviewing the Evidence

“A wonderfully written, engaging novel….It’s rare that a book of which I feel quite passionately enraptured crosses my desk, and this is one of those special books that fully deserves five stars. The plot is well-paced, the dialogue is thoughtful and succinct, and being inside the head of Flavia de Luce is delightful. Her wry, dry humour and resigned frustration with the adult world are seriously entertaining….I loved her to bits.” –Oh Baby Magazine, NZ

“Delightfully entertaining.” –The Guardian, UK

“The first page…is so delicious, that I actually had to stop in the middle of The Girl Who Played with Fire to read the rest of it. Flavia deserves the Nobel Prize for Chemistry and Alan Bradley the Edgar Award. Does anyone collect stamps anymore?” –Paul Ingram

“If there ever was a heroine set for stardom it would be Flavia de Luce….Think Agatha Christie crossed with the Mitfords and laced with mischievous humour.” –Sunday Herald, Australia

“If you condensed Sherlock Holmes’s deductive abilities, Madame Curie’s talent for chemistry, and Dr. Jekyll’s zeal into the mind of an 11-year-old, her name would be Flavia de Luce….full of mystery, charm, and chemistry. Its quick-witted dialogue, tongue-in-cheek humour and colourful characters will linger long after the book is back on the shelf.”—Discovery Channel, in print

“She’s a fictional 11-year-old girl detective living in England in 1950. He’s a very real 70-year-old retired television engineer living today in Kelowna, B.C. Together they are soaring to great heights in the international literary world.”—Ottawa Citizen

“Bradley adroitly brews a biting yet empathetic read that’s anchored in the English countryside and public schools, and haunted by secrets. His fresh and innovative Flavia de Luce…is a new voice that’s brilliant and fierce, funny and vulnerable….I couldn’t read the book fast enough…Another serving, please!” –Marie Ary, Seattle Mystery Bookshop; Seattle, Washington

“Amazingly entertaining…The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie introduces a charming and engaging sleuth.”—Booklist, starred review

“A fresh, engaging first novel.”—Library Journal

Praise from the Debut Dagger Award Judges of the UK Crime Writers’ Association:


"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!"

"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!" 

"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." 


From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Oh I loved, loved, loved this book!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie introduces us to eleven year old Flavia DeLuce. She lives with her father and two sisters in an old mansion in 1950's England. The house is full of nooks and crannies - and a old chemistry lab. Flavia practices making poisons there. (yes poisons!) She and her older sisters are constantly thinking of ways to torment each other. Their eccentric father keeps himself occupied with his philatelic obsession.We are introduced to Flavia in the first paragraph of the novel....

"It was as black in the closet as old blood. They had shoved me in and locked the door. I breathed heavily through my nose, fighting desperately to remain calm. I tried counting to ten on every intake of breath, and to eight as I released each one slowly into the darkness. Luckily for me, they had pulled the gag so tightly into my open mouth that my nostrils were left unobstructed, and I was able to draw in one slow lungful after another of the stale, musty air."

Flavia escapes unharmed, but plans to pay her sisters back. However, the appearance of a dead bird with a postage stamp speared through it's beak and her father's horrified reaction distract her. But it is the dead body found in the cucumber patch that really enthralls her. When her father is arrested for the murder, Flavia sets out to solve the crime on her own.

Flavia is one of the most endearing, captivating, curious, beguiling, precocious characters I've ever discovered in the pages of a book. The crime is interesting, but it is Flavia's personality that is the real draw for me.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I'll Go For Another Slice ... Feb. 25 2009
By Dave and Joe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Wonderful writing, incredible detail, terrific story ... and a heroine who is 11 years old. After a few pages I had to stop, say to myself out loud 'suspend disbelief' and then will myself to accept the lead character as a possibility. After that bit of work, I had a romping good time. Flavia is a charmer, brave when she needs to be, girlish when she wants to be, clever constantly. I'll read more. The author would be well advised himself to remember that Flavia is 11 years old ... as I think on occasion in the writing of this book, he forgot that fact.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written mystery. May 26 2014
By Dexter
Format:Paperback
This is one of my favourite mystery book I've read. The characters are incredibly unique and engaging. The detective in this story is Flavia de Luce, who is an 11 year old chemist who uses her special skills to track down a killer. Flavia is instantly lovable, her general disregard for the rules and strained relationship with her sisters will take her into the hearts of readers.

Definitely check out this great book!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating May 9 2014
By Toni Osborne TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Book 1, in the Flavia de Luce series

This is a delightful old fashioned mystery set in the English countryside in 1950. It features Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old amateur sleuth who pulls herself away from her beloved chemistry lab in order to clear her father in a murder investigation. This debut novel was written in 2009 and was well received by critics, 5 more books were written for adults and have since been published.

Flavia de Luce is a brilliant, bold, adorable and a gem of a character. She comes alive on the page and her voice is so distinctive, a precocious young heroine with extraordinary vocabulary (she certainly has a doozy one) it is hard not to be engaged by this compelling lead detective. Although I was totally absorbed by this tale I do question to whom this book was meant to appeal? When an 11 year old girl is the protagonist you would think a younger audience is the target but when a language has such a deep level and details paint realistic experiences it makes for a tedious read and may be a bit much for the younger minds. Oh! Yes I remember this series is for adults…. Hum…ok.

Flavia is far too mature for her age, putting this aside was my best bet to enjoy this mystery at its fullest. In fact I now say this story is rather captivating, one that moves quickly giving us bits and pieces until we have the final picture. There are a lots of clues covertly hidden waiting for us to discover and this is a fun pleasure. Added to all this mix is a touch of humour. This is an uplifting adventure that was slow to grab me but it finally did as I further read along.

Next “The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag” is on my TBR list….I give Mr. Bradley thumbs up for picked such original titles.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Poor cover March 16 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Love the story, but purchased used, and was a bit disappointed in the condition of the cover. It was smelly and quite soiled - worse than I had expected, but my Granddaughter seems to like it as well.
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4.0 out of 5 stars New, fresh mystery Feb. 3 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A new take on the old formula! Flavia is utterly engaging, and totally wonderful! Alan Bradley is a rising star in this genre. I look forward to reading all the rest!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Flavia strikes again Aug. 10 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The quirkily endearing 11 year old Flavia de Luce solves the mystery.

Recommended for British mystery lovers.

Enjoyable on Kindle.
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3.0 out of 5 stars fun, silly, light Aug. 7 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was a nice light summer read. The main character is likeable enough that the reader easily forgives the implausibility of manynof the plot twists.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting.
I found the book interesting and amusing. The writing left a little to be desired. It is what I call light and fluffy and is great for travel reading.
Douglas Hill
Published 9 days ago by Green Dolphin
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully unique main character; just an average mystery
My Review: I went into this book, the beginning of a series, with pretty much no information on it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by The Baking Bookworm
3.0 out of 5 stars Not so _cozy_
I enjoy mystery novels that fit in the _cozy_ category -- that is, mystery, detection, character development without serial killers, forensic gore, or the supernatural. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars delightful
This book kept my interest throughout. It had interesting twists. Anyone who enjoys mysteries will like this book. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jo
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed this book!
Very well written and highly enjoyed. I recommend this book. I look forward to the rest of the books in the series.
Published 16 months ago by V. Mait
5.0 out of 5 stars The first of a great series!
This was a fantastic read, right from the get-go! Alan Bradley
is amazing in his ability to channel an 11-year old female character.
Published 20 months ago by Abbey Chung
4.0 out of 5 stars Flavia is a treasure
The central mystery is puzzling and the characters interestingly odd; but it's the protagonist who is the star of the show. Read more
Published on May 28 2012 by Raymond Thompson
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