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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie Hardcover – Oct 15 2009


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Amazon.ca First Novel Award - 6 Canadian Novels Make the Shortlist
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.



Product Details

  • Hardcover: 429 pages
  • Publisher: Magna Large Print Books; Large type edition edition (Oct. 15 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 0750531231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0750531238
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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.

Review

"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 (U.K.)

“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. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Feb. 4 2009
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 By Dave and Joe TOP 100 REVIEWER on Feb. 25 2009
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. LeBeau on Jan. 3 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Despite being set in post war Britain this book has modern sensibility and is a fun read. Like many other great novels, it is wonderful despite the age of the reader. Suspend your disbelief as to the age of the protagonist and let the sharp prose take you on an a dark and twisty ride.
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By Lynne Butler on April 30 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Love, love, love this book. Flavia DeLuca is my new hero. What a wonderful, smart, quirky, hell-bent character! She is all about being an accomplished scientist - and poisoner - at age 11. I have rarely seen a young character this well-conceived and fully drawn. It is such a treat to read a story about a girl that doesn't focus on her looks or her crush on a boy, and who has more faults than attributes. Her little war against her older sister in which she tries to poison the lipstick is priceless. It's not so much that I approve of what she does as I am astonished at her resourcefulness and determination.

I am just as pleased with the author's writing style. I am VERY picky about the way novelist's write, and I have nothing but contempt for those whose ability to describe a character begins and ends with the character's hair colour. Alan Bradley's prose flows seamlessly. There are no rough patches. He manages to create scenes vividly without wasting the reader's time with "filler". He makes plenty of literary references, which I always enjoy. His style demands a bit of intelligence on the part of the reader. This book feels fresh and original.
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By Richard Schwindt TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 6 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Alan Bradley, in his late sixties, added himself to the list of great mystery writers. Somehow he created a brilliantly morbid 11 year old girl with a gift for organic chemistry and investigation. He placed her in the English village of how many mysteries and made her completely original. Flavia De Luce finds a body on her family estate and to make matters gorier still, it isn't quite dead. Immune to tender sentiment, she takes on pursuit of the truth to protect her father but mostly because detection is what she was born to do. There are exotic stamps, household poisons and eccentric characters grappling with the truth, and the understated trauma of the fifties in post war Britain. Bradley is a fluent and skilled writer who clearly should have invented Flavia many years earlier. As a mystery writer I completely understand how she emerged with a life of her own. Don't miss this opportunity to start the series from the beginning. Highly recommended to any lover of mystery and YA novels.
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Format: Paperback
This is a whodunit with protagonist 11-year old Flavia de Luce who lives with two older sisters and a remote father in a large ill kept English country house in 1950. The author has caught the atmosphere of 1950 in England very well. I spotted only one anomaly. Flavia is a very intelligent, precocious person with a strong knowledge of chemistry. To me she was quite a believable character since I knew a very similar (male) person dating from the same period. In those days, schools were much more relaxed in their demands on children outside of classes, and crimes against children were almost non-existent, so that children were given much greater freedom. We would wander everywhere without fear. The police are also represented correctly. Our local village policeman would cycle everywhere, extremely slowly, and behave in a benevolent and avuncular fashion. This was life before many people had automobiles, telephones were slow since calls would be routed through a manual exchange, still some food rationing and many furniture items in short supply. The pace of life was very slow.
The book is written from Flavia's perspective and is suitable for anyone who is able to read it.
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