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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
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.

"Whenever I'm out of doors and find myself wanting to have a first-rate think, I fling myself down on my back, throw my arms and legs out so that I look like an asterisk, and gaze at the sky. For the first little while, I'm usually entertained by my 'floaters, those wormy little strings of protein that swim to and fro across one's field of vision like dark little galaxies. When I'm not in a hurry, I stand on my head to stir them, up, and then lie back to watch the show, as if it were an animated cinema film."

Although the idea of an eleven year old for a protagonist seems unusual for an adult detective novel, it just somehow works. Harriet the Spy for grown ups. (I really wanted to be Harriet when I was younger!)

This is the first in a series that Bradley has planned - The Buckshaw Chronicles. I will be on the edge of my seat waiting for the second!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 25, 2009
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
on January 3, 2010
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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on April 30, 2015
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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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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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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on May 1, 2010
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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Alan Bradley has a winner in junior detective, eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, a self-taught chemist who is undaunted in getting her way. I predict that this is the beginning of a remarkable mystery series. If she can do all this at 11, imagine what she'll be able do to at 11 3/4!

After a late-night argument with her father, Flavia discovers the blackmailer dying in the yard. To her mind, her absent-minded father is suspect number one. She takes it upon herself to solve the mysteries of what the blackmail was all about, old crimes, and this death. Naturally, everyone wants her out of the way . . . including the murdered. But it takes a lot to slow down Flavia. Merely tying her up won't do it.

Whenever a story has a precocious child hero in it, there has to be lots of humor to season the story and make us interested in what's going on rather than being annoyed by the child's smugness. Mr. Bradley clearly understands that and adds a nice light touch throughout.

The book opens in a very tight, well-organized way . . . and begins to meander near the middle. With a little more editing down of this material, this source of sweetness could have been a much more memorable one.

The plot is delicious in its humorous intricacies that successfully build around postage stamps, chemistry, sleight-of-hand, hiding places, red herrings, and false tales. Clearly, Mr. Bradley has a wonderful imagination.

I can't wait for the next book in the series!
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on May 26, 2014
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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on May 28, 2012
The central mystery is puzzling and the characters interestingly odd; but it's the protagonist who is the star of the show. Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce is an inspired creation, who fascinates and entertains in equal measure as she sets about meeting all challenges with an admirable mixture of determination, shrewdness, and expertise in chemistry.
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