Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie In spite of the fact that this was a horrible name for a book (who can remember that name?  and I found only a weak connection between the name and the book's content), and in spite of the fact that I usually don't read mysteries because I don't like them (and this was "A Flavia de Luce Mystery"), this was a pretty darn good book.

Set in the 1950's in the family owned once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, we meet a most interesting and delightfully entertaining group of characters.  Flavia de Luce, our sleuth, is a precocious 11 year old girl with a pendant for chemistry and a particular love for poisons.  She lives with her widowed reclusive father, and two older sisters Daphne (Daffy) and Ophelia (Feely) where book reading and rivalry rules.  In the opening chapter we find Flavia dissolving Feely's inherited pearls that had "belonged to Mummy" much to Feely's horror.  And, that is only the start of it!

The murder takes place by Chapter 2, and it is up to Flavia to untangle who killed the man that had been visiting Father the previous evening.  She found the victum layed out in the family cucumber patch, expressing his last breath. The book is well written without any nastiness that would offer it an R or probably even a PG-13 rating.  It is clean, entertaining, and quite British.

I'm happy to see that Alan Bradley has many more Flavia mysteries to entertain us.  Any of these books would make great gifts to adults and adolencent readers alike.  It isn't a great discussion book, but would be fun for a lighter mystery or dinner party oriented reading group.

Mr. Bradley became a first time novelist in his 70's, and I'm sorry he waiting so long to start! His writing is good and prolific.   In 2007 he won the Debut Dagger Award of the (British) Crimewriter’s Association for this novel.  Check out the web site more bio information, a list of his Flavia mysteries, and an opportunity to join his fan club!