Rated Reads

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1)

by Alan Bradley

Rated: Mild

Mysteries are a dime a dozen. Mysteries whose narrator and detective are a precocious 11-year-old girl are not quite as ubiquitous. In fact, a “real” inspector in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie calls Flavia de Luce, said heroine, “ubiquitous.” She could also be called witty, clever, a bit devious and perhaps a bit dangerous — considering her favorite hobby is chemistry, and within that, the study of poison.

Flavia lives in England; the story begins in 1950. The old manor home in which she lives, Buckshaw, becomes the site of a murder. Flavia not only sees the victim take his last breath; she also takes it upon herself to solve the mystery herself. Her father, a dedicated philatelist, is implicated in the crime, and since there seem to be no other suspects, Flavia does some digging to figure out at least how the crime happened, if indeed it was her father who did it.

Her investigations take her to the town library (several times), her father’s prep school from years before (and the high roof on top of one of the buildings), and to the hotel room of the murdered man. She manages to find out a whole lot of information despite the drawback of being only 11. Her old bicycle takes her all over the countryside as she collects pieces of the puzzle to fit together quite neatly by the end.

For readers who want a mystery that is difficult to solve, this isn’t the book. The ending doesn’t come as much of a surprise for those who can put two and two together. The real entertainment comes with finding out what Flavia is going to do next — and how. Of course, since she is only 11, she has her priorities in some order — she takes time in between collecting clues and doing chemistry experiments to figure out ways to torment her older sisters, who seem to come from a different world altogether, with their novels and makeup and other less-interesting pursuits. How she does this — and how they are able to get her back — is lots of fun to read. This character is truly a character.

Luckily, there are more mysteries featuring Flavia in the works, including The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, already out. On with the fun!

Rated: Mild, for perhaps 10 instances of mild language, and a little bit of violence. (It is a murder mystery, after all.)

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 15 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

6 Responses to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1)

  1. […] chemist Flavia de Luce made her first appearance in Alan Bradley’s first novel about her, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and she’s back to solve another murder mystery in The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s […]

  2. […] 11-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce has already charmed and amused in her previous outings, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. Now she’s back for a third appearance in […]

  3. […] chemist Flavia de Luce made her first appearance in Alan Bradley’s first novel about her, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and she’s back to solve another murder mystery in The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s […]

  4. A great read, even though a little thick with obscure literary references and niche chemistry. I enjoyed the plot immensely.

  5. […] Readers who have followed all of precocious young detective Flavia de Luce’s adventures should find this latest in the series entertaining. In the previous book, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, Alan Bradley added in a new plot element to what had previously been simply local murder mysteries, and that is developed a bit more in As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. That means, however, that readers shouldn’t hop in to the series with these sixth and seventh books. Earlier on, any could have been a fine starting place, though I heartily recommend reading all of them, starting with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. […]

  6. […] you’ve read any of the previous Flavia de Luce books, of which there are now many, you’ll know that any outing with Flavia is a delight. These […]

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1)
  • by Alan Bradley
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: