Book Review

Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

the sweetness at the bottom of the pie

Number of pages: 292

Format: hardcover and paperback

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Genre: mystery and detective

Rating: ages 18 and up

Notes: Book one of the Flavia de Luce series written by Canadian author, Alan Bradley


Flavia de Luce is an 11-year-old with a passion for chemistry and lives in the century old English mansion with two intolerable older sisters and her father, Colonel de Luce. But one summer day in 1950, Flavia encounters two startling discoveries: a dead jacksnipe with a postage stamp pierced by its beak, and a dead man in the garden. For Flavia this becomes an interesting day as she begins her investigation that becomes the talk of the town at Bishop’s Lacey. 

My thoughts: 

It’s like reading Harriet the Spy meets Agatha Christie. An 11-year-old girl with a knack for chemistry bullied by her two older sisters, and you think “poor girl!” But with her profound knowledge in poisons Flavia de Luce plots revenge against her siblings for their rotten behavior. A clever, precocious, and quick-witted young girl, Flavia has interesting qualities not relatively seen by most girls her age, including her very own chemical laboratory she calls her sanctum sanctorum and a collection of chemistry books handed down from generations of renowned chemists that would envy any scientist. Big sisters beware! As Flavia de Luce is no ordinary girl to be trifled with.

As soon as a dead man is discovered in her family’s garden, Flavia doesn’t seem scared (as a normal 11-year-old would) but is interested in the strange events surrounding Buckshaw mansion. And as this tragic incident unpredictably involves someone from her family, Flavia becomes absorbed in the investigation to find the truth behind the murder.

Like a Sherlock Holmes, Flavia uses her scientific mind and logic to deduce the crime that began with a dead jacksnipe on her family’s front door step. As the story progresses, we learn that besides her profound knowledge in chemistry and a talent in detective work, Flavia has a sophisticated taste in art and music as she describes Pietro Domentico Paradis’s Toccata her favorite composition, and the greatest musical accomplishment in history.

I absolutely love the de Luce sisters. Although they can be pretentious and unfair to their little sister, they too have hidden talents of their own: Ophelia with her technique on piano and musical composition, and Daphne with her complete knowledge of English literature with Charles Dickens as her model of influence. More than once, her older sister’s teachings and advice have helped Flavia escape even in the toughest scenarios, “If ever you’re accosted by a man, kick him in the Casanovas and run like blue blazes!” Unfortunately, innocent 11-year-old Flavia has no idea where the Casanovas are on a man, but with her intelligence and quick thinking she learns to come up with another strategy in these situations.

As sisters, Flavia feels that it is her trait to hate her siblings as she perfectly describes in her words, “There is something lacking in the de Luces: some chemical bond, or lack of it.” Clearly the de Luce sisters don’t normally show their affection and would rather jump off the cliff then admit their love for one another. But deep down, the de Luce sisters do care for one another as their sisterly advice has proved to be a lifesaver for Flavia as she undergoes her investigation to dangerous territory and persons of interest.

If you love reading Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, you’ll love reading Flavia de Luce. She has all the makings of a young, female Sherlock: quick on making clear and concise observations, passion for poisons, and instead of finding the answer, she deduces it using only logic and reasoning. And with her wit and determination of solving a problem she becomes a pre-adolescent detective in her own right. After finishing the first book in the series, I’m excited to read the rest and discover what other mysteries lie in wait for Flavia to solve. There are currently five books in the Flavia de Luce series with book six The Dead in their Vaulted Arches coming out next year on January 14, 2014.

My verdict: 5 hoots out of 5.


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