Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

I recently saw a review of the seventh Flavia De Luce mystery by Alan Bradley, which I later found Bonnie reading (the book not the review) at home, just as I came home with book one The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Bonnie was surprised I had not read it. She has read all the books in Bradley's mystery series and encouraged me to get started. I did that night.

With heightened expectations I opened the book to the first chapter to discover eleven-year-old Flavia describing how dark it was in the closet where her two older sisters had tied her and presumably left her to die of starvation. Knowing escape tricks, she was already plotting her revenge, a plan involving her great knowledge of chemistry. I could see right away that Flavia was not a typical child.

In The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, set in 1950s rural England, Flavia vividly recounts how she solves the mystery of why a tall red-headed man died in her family's cucumber patch. Her efforts required a lot of bicycle riding, reading stacks of old newspapers in the village library (housed in an outbuilding of an old garage), and interviewing elderly neighbors. She also meets a police inspector who is willing to bend a few rules.

With an eleven-year-old sleuth, you might think The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie would be a juvenile title, but it is marketed to adults and shelved with adult mysteries in public libraries. I do not see any reason a good younger reader willing to take on a few Latin phrases and quotes from Shakespeare could not tackle it. Flavia's spunky attitude and the fact that adults are trying to hog the book might make it even more attractive to youth.

Bradley, Alan. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Delacorte Press, 2009. 373p. ISBN 9780385342308.

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