Wednesday, September 15, 2010

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

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley
Publisher: Bantam
Publication date: April 2009
ISBN: 9780385343497

Source: Library

 The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery
Flavia de Luce is in a perpetual rivalry with her two older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne.  Fortunately, she has a passion for chemistry which makes revenge something delightfully sweet any time she wants to cook up a little poison.  But, when a body finds its way into her family's garden, mysteriously dead and unfortunately implicating her father, Flavia must use all her skills, not just chemistry-related, to solve the crime and protect her father. 

Today's BBAW topic is Unexpected Treasure, and I have to tell you, this is perfect.  My review today is proof that bloggers have influence (even bloggers that are not Angie).  I have never been a big fan of newly released adult titles, especially not mystery titles (let's be honest, most of what I review is young adult and non-mystery).  I always feel like I have to wait and wait until I've heard enough good about them before I'll pick them up.  But, even then, I don't remember any other adult mysteries I've read.  I'm not sure if I just avoided them altogether because I had so many other favorites, or because of some unconscious decision.  Either way, this book was not on my radar.  Until it kept showing up all over the place, with people adoring and praising it to the skies.  I do not even remember which review finally pushed me over the edge, but I am oh so glad I finally caved.

Things I Liked:
Flavia is an absolute gem!  I couldn't help but love her to pieces, even when I couldn't understand her chemistry delights (I'm from a whole family of chemists, but I never even took a class).  Bradley has created such a real character, this precocious (totally overused, but really can't think of another word for it) eleven-year-old with a sense of humor you wouldn't believe.  I wanted to keep reading more about her and with her.  I wanted to follow her around everwhere and find out what she'd do or say next.  I especially wanted more of her sisterly escapades - even with four older sisters, I never had much skill in the revenge department.  And the story itself was a delight to read!  Well written with an unforgettable character.  Here are just a few of my favorite parts:

Their two yellow brick annexes, postulantly Victorian, folded back like the pinioned wings of a bone yard angel which to my eyes, gave the tall windows and shutters of Buckshaw's Georgian front the prim and surprised look of an old maid whose bun is too tight. p 7
It occured to me that Heaven must be a place where the library is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
No...eight days a week. p 59
It's a fact of life that a girl can tell in a flash if another girl likes her.  Feely says that there is a broken telephone connection between men and women and we can never know which of us rang off.  With a boy you never know whether he's smitten or gagging, but with a girl you can tell in teh first three seconds.  Between girls there is a silent and unending flow of invisible signals... p85
It was downhill all the way, and I made good speed.  When I backpedaled, the Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub on Gladys's rear wheel gave off a noise like a den of enraged venom-dripping rattlesnakes.  I pretended they were right there behind me striking at my heels.  It was glorious!  I hadn't felt in such fine form since the day I first produced, by successive extraction and evaporation, a synthetic curare from the bog arum in the Vicar's lily pond. p156
Things I Didn't Like:
Not much to not like.  The mystery aspect was a bit simplistic, I thought.  Some parts of it were fairly easy to figure out, though others completely took me by surprise.  Definitely worth reading.

Apparently, there's already another Flavia de Luce mystery, with a third in the wings - get started already! 

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee (though they are both more Victorian...)

s-factor: !
a few, not a lot

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
some fairly scary stuff, also a bit of violence

Overall rating: *****

What is your Unexpected Treasure?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. *throws her hands up in the air* Hallelujah! She finally read it! A beautiful book, isn't it?

    An unexpected treasure that I got was East by Edith Pattou. I wasn't prepared for the rich descriptions that the author wrote, such as the art of the heroine's weaving. It actually inspired me to take up crocheting again, strange as that may sound.

  2. Lauren, maybe you are the one who inspired me to pick it up? And yes, I didn't realize how much I'd love it!

    I really liked EAST as well. She had some gorgeous descriptions, as I recall. If only I had ever learned how to crochet...

  3. I loved Flavia too! She is so spunky and fun.

  4. Stephanie, she was the life of the book, for sure!


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