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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie [Hardcover]

Alan Bradley
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Hardcover, Large Print CDN $37.20  
Hardcover, Oct. 15 2009 --  
Paperback CDN $14.40  
Audio, CD, Audiobook, Unabridged CDN $16.60  
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Book Description

Oct. 15 2009
It is June 1950 and a sleepy English village is about to be awakened by the discovery of a dead body in Colonel de Luce's cucumber patch. The police are baffled, and when a dead snipe is deposited on the Colonel's doorstep with a rare stamp impaled on its beak, they are baffled even more. Only the Colonel's daughter, the precocious Flavia -when she's not plotting elaborate revenges against her nasty older sisters in her basement chemical laboratory, that is - has the ingenuity to follow the clues that reveal the victim's identity, and a conspiracy that reached back into the de Luce family's murky past. Flavia and her family are brilliant creations, a darkly playful and wonderfully atmospheric flavour to a plot of delightful ingenuity.
--This text refers to the Audio CD 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 an alternate Hardcover edition.


'Set in 1950 this has the lightest of touches and a joyful intent to entertain. There's more than sufficient plot to keep you listening as Emilia Fox brings Flavia to delightful life.' (Friday 21 May) -- Kati Nicholl DAILY EXPRESS --This text refers to the Audio CD 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
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
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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By The Baking Bookworm TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
My Review: I went into this book, the beginning of a series, with pretty much no information on it. I only knew that it was Canadian and I recognized the cover because the series is popular in the library where I work. What I came away with was a solid debut with a very unique main character.

Flavia is in a category all her own. She has quite an engaging voice and humour which was, honestly, my favourite part of the book. Now, I know that some readers have taken exception to eleven year old Flavia's voice because she does give off a 'too old and wise for her years' feeling. Sure she's refreshing, precocious and tenacious but you will need to suspend your belief that there was such a brilliant, well-spoken eleven year old with science expertise out there in the 1950's. That said, her banter with her older sisters was what made the book for me and I really enjoyed her.

The book is set in a small town England in the 1950's which I found interesting and refreshing. Unfortunately I found the mystery to be just okay. It wasn't very complicated or, truth be told, overly riveting for me. A few times I was a step ahead of Flavia's deductions but it was Flavia and her unique wit that kept me captivated.

Note: For those readers who are not fans of blatant violence and/or swearing then this may be a book for you as both were minimal throughout the book.

I think this would be a good, cozy read and I will most likely be picking up the next book in this six book series.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

** This book review, as well as many more, can also be found on my blog, The Baking Bookworm (
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written mystery. May 26 2014
By Dexter
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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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor cover
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... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jaquie Bunse
4.0 out of 5 stars New, fresh mystery
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!
Published 5 months ago by Blackrabbit
5.0 out of 5 stars Flavia strikes again
The quirkily endearing 11 year old Flavia de Luce solves the mystery.

Recommended for British mystery lovers.

Enjoyable on Kindle.
Published 11 months ago by G. M. Barz
3.0 out of 5 stars fun, silly, light
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.
Published 11 months ago by a reader
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 13 months ago by Bill
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 13 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 14 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 18 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
1.0 out of 5 stars Artless Book Makes Reader Cry
At one time, this book held some promise for me.

I'm a Canadian and I love mysteries. I also enjoy period fiction. "What's not to like? Read more
Published on March 11 2012 by BookLover777
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