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.)