Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

sweetness at the bottom of the pieSweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Novel by Alan Bradley (Delacorte Press, April 28, 2009), 384 pages

Flavia de Luce is our 11-year-old protagonist. (She reminds me some of Nancy Drew, although I’m not entirely sure if that’s just because she’s a young amateur sleuth.) She’s certainly precocious. Flavia is a chemist, the youngest of three daughters in the de Luce family. It’s the summer of 1950, we meet our cast of characters at the family estate of Buckshaw, in rural England. She discovers a stranger dead in the cucumber patch and takes solving the death on her own shoulders. Her mother died when Flavia was young. Her father is somewhat distant because of his war experience. Her two older sisters keep themselves occupied, one with any reflective surface and the other with a near infinite stack of books.

At times, Flavia is musing over chemical properties of a particular poison or antidote like a professional (or at least like an adult — at points I had to remind myself that she is not an adult), and at others she’s clearly a typical clueless-about-life tween. She makes good use of the public library in nearby Bishop’s Lacey and gets everywhere she needs to go on her bike, which she’s named Gladys.

Throughout the book, conversations on stamp collecting, classical music, and literature persist.

I’m intrigued by the young protagonist in a book written for adults. I’m guessing the main reason this isn’t labeled as a YA book is that the protagonist is too young. While not quite laugh-out-loud funny, it is an amusing read.

It’s a great book. I look forward to the rest of the series (the next installment — Tied Up with Strings — is due in 2010). I placed it alongside my favorite reads of the year, and found that I can’t place it at the top of that list but also that I can’t articulate why not.

Sweetness won the Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger Award in 2007.

Alan Bradley lives in British Columbia, Canada; he took early retirement in 1994 to write.

Other reviews:
Lesa’s Book Critiques
Arch Thinking
Medieval Bookworm
Thoughts of Joy
Tower of Books
Fyrefly’s Book Blog
A Bookworm’s World
On My Bookshelf
Both Eyes Book Blog
The Indextrious Reader
Shelf Love
Lost in Books
Bookopolis
book-a-rama
Bibliophile by the Sea
Stainless Steel Droppings

Did I miss yours? Leave me a link and I’ll add your review here.

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22 responses to “Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

  1. This sounds great! For some reason I have not read those other reviews but I’m glad yours caught my eye! Definitely it goes onto my next-trip-to-library list!

  2. I’m so bad about reading fiction. I think I just don’t let myself have the pleasure. Why is that?

    • I understand how not letting yourself have the pleasure goes. I freely let myself read fiction, but in other areas of life …

      I sometimes think it’s a common trait of women, though.

  3. Great review – I really want to read this book!

  4. I have this book in my to-read pile. I’ve been waiting for a time when I need a special book. I’m glad to hear it was one of your favorites from the year.

  5. I long and long to read this book! I have read so many great reviews of it that I am coming close to breaking my rule about never buying books I haven’t read before…and I have a B&N gift card…

  6. Thanks for the link. I’m glad you enjoyed it – I too am waiting for the next one!

  7. I have heard the word ‘delightful’ attached to this and so want to read it. But I didn’t realize it was a series! ugh. I hate to commit to series books. oh well. maybe someday.

  8. I enjoyed this book very much – thanks for the news about the sequel. I’ll be looking forward to it. I think I enjoyed the characters even more than the mystery itself – Flavia’s relationships with her sisters, especially.

  9. Just hard this reviewed on NPR yesterday, so I’m glad to hear you liked it, too.

  10. I’m with Belle – I liked the characters more than the mystery. Also, I think this could absolutely be read as a YA book… it’s very much a borderline case.

  11. Hmm. That IS interesting – the young protagonist for adults. Very intriguing.

    I hadn’t heard of this book at all (the title drew me in!) but it sounds like something I might very well enjoy!

    THanks for the review.

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  15. A brilliant and wonderful reading experience. I just reviewed it here if you are interested:

    http://www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com/?p=1141

  16. Pingback: Semicolon » Blog Archive » Saturday Review of Books: August 22, 2009

  17. Pingback: Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie « ReviewsbyLola's Blog

  18. Pingback: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie « Care's Online Book Club

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