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Sunday, 4 August 2013

Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley (Canada: British Columbia)

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Author: Alan Bradley
Publication: 2009/Canada: Doubleday Canada
ISBN #: 978-0-385-66582-7
# of pages: 292
Discovered at mysteries in paradise
Read in paper format
Also available in e-book and audio formats
Link to author’s website:
A girl is tied up, gagged, and locked in a closet….by her older sisters. Such is our introduction to precocious eleven year old Flavia de Luce. She, Ophelia and Daphne wage a never-ending war of revenge and counter-revenge. The ace up Flavia’s sleeve is her in-depth knowledge of poisons and her well-equipped home chemistry lab and she sets to work with Ophelia’s lipstick to get even for the closet.

 Once done, Flavia heads for the kitchen where the housekeeper Mrs. Mullet is about to leave, after assuring Flavia’s father that lunch is ready.  As Mrs. Mullet opens the door, she shrieks on discovering a dead bird with a postage stamp impaled on its beak. But the reaction of Colonel de Luce is even stronger: he gasps, clutches at his throat and turns deadly pale.

This shakes Flavia profoundly; she has never seen her father so upset. She has difficulty falling asleep that evening and overhears angry voices in the middle of the night. She sneaks downstairs and spys her father arguing with a tall red haired man. Creeping back to bed before she gets caught, Flavia briefly falls asleep, only to wake up at dawn and find the red haired man dead in the vegetable patch. Could her father really be guilty of murder? Flavia sets out to discover the truth.

I had avoided this book for some time just because I didn’t like the title (still don’t). That was a mistake because this was a delightful book with a very different heroine. Flavia reminds me of Anne of Green Gables…with a twist: like Anne, precocious and curious to a fault, and (unlike Anne) vengeful, at least towards her sisters. It was great fun picturing her upstairs in her lab, rubbing her hands together and plotting poisonous plans. Her intrepid detecting gets her into some tight spots and although she seems quite grownup at times, her solutions for getting out of these spots come from a young girl’s mind. For once, the police officer is not incompetent, although perhaps at times, he is more tolerant of Flavia than many officers might be. I liked that the family is down on their luck, despite the big manor home, so Flavia isn’t just the rich little girl who everyone feels they have to help. And is there more to what happened to her mother Harriet? Can’t wait to read more of this series.                Rating: (^_°)       Intriguing

Although the story is set in 1950s England, the author was born in Ontario, worked in Saskatchewan and retired to British Columbia. Since he wrote the book in B.C., that is the province to which I have assigned it for the Canadian Book Challenge.  Bradley worked in media for many years, including a stint teaching Script Writing and Television Production. In addition to the (so far) six book Flavia series, he has written two other non-series books, one of which proposes that Sherlock Holmes was a woman (co-written with  Dr. William Sarjeant)…now added to my “To Be Read” pile!


  1. This a very good review of this book. Like you, I put off reading it; I just thought it would be too saccharine and did not expect to like the heroine or the premise. When I finally read it, I was won over immediately. A lot of fun.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Tracy! Have you read any more "Flavia"? My TBR pile is soooo big, I'm hesitating but as you said, the book was a lot of fun.

    2. Yes, Debra, I have read the 2nd and the 3rd. I am almost keeping up with this series, which is rare for me. The 4th has a Christmas theme and I will read it then, although I have heard it is not as good as the rest.

    3. Oh dear, guess my TBR pile just got a little higher!

  2. Yes, nice review. I too read this book this month, but haven't reviewed it yet. I always have trouble reviewing mysteries because I don't read them often and when I do there always seems too much to say. And yet, you don't want to be giving any spoilers! You captured the essential delight in reading this book.

    1. Hello, Winnipeg!!! Thanks for your comments. Although you say you don't read mysteries often, any Manitoba mystery writers you'd like to share?