The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

By Alan Bradley

Here is the summary from the Kobo website:

A delightfully dark English mystery, featuring precocious young sleuth Flavia de Luce and her eccentric family. The summer of 1950 hasn’t offered up anything out of the ordinary for eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce: bicycle explorations around the village, keeping tabs on her neighbours, relentless battles with her older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, and brewing up poisonous concoctions while plotting revenge in their home’s abandoned Victorian chemistry lab, which Flavia has claimed for her own. But then a series of mysterious events gets Flavia’s attention: A dead bird is found on the doormat, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. A mysterious late-night visitor argues with her aloof father, Colonel de Luce, behind closed doors. And in the early morning Flavia finds a red-headed stranger lying in the cucumber patch and watches him take his dying breath. For Flavia, the summer begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw: ” I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.” Did the stranger die of poisoning? There was a piece missing from Mrs. Mullet’s custard pie, and none of the de Luces would have dared to eat the awful thing. Or could he have been killed by the family’s loyal handyman, Dogger… or by the Colonel himself! At that moment, Flavia commits herself to solving the crime even if it means keeping information from the village police, in order to protect her family. But then her father confesses to the crime, for the same reason, and it’s up to Flavia to free him of suspicion. Only she has the ingenuity to follow the clues that reveal the victim’s identity, and a conspiracy that reaches back into the de Luces’ murky past. A thoroughly entertaining romp of a novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is inventive and quick-witted, with tongue-in-cheek humour that transcends the macabre seriousness of its subject.

I really enjoyed this book. It was funny, full of great characters, well-paced, and focuses on a murder mystery in 1950s England. All the elements of a fun read!

Flavia, the narrator, is a funny, intelligent 11 year old chemistry wiz who seems to spend most of her time battling her two older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne. However, when a dead body turns up in the cucumber patch at Buckshaw, she has to set her main pastime aside and get to the bottom of things – especially once her father confesses to murder.

The story moved quickly and although I had some ideas about who the murderer was, I didn’t quite solve it before the end of the book. However, waiting for Flavia to solve the mystery is part of the book’s appeal, and I tried to just let the plot unfold before me without attempting to figure it all out myself.

The book was quite funny, which surprised me at first. It took about two chapters for me to get used to the style and dark humour but then I was hooked. As an 11 year old, Flavia sees things differently than an adult narrator would have, and that too is part of the book’s charm.

I had fun reading this book. The plot moved quickly, and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next. Flavia’s investigation brings her into contact with some interesting characters! Ialso  love reading books set in a different time period, and as this was set in 1950s England, in a small village, that was an added bonus.

I strongly recommend this book. I will definitely be reading the next book in the Flavia de Luce series, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag.

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