This clever mystery was the book chosen for the monthly Book Club that I lead at the library. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley is a fantastic book with a precocious heroine, Flavia de Luce. It is set in 1950s, small town England. Flavia de Luce is an unusual lead character for an adult book. She is only eleven years old, but she has some very definite opinions on how the world works. Nonetheless, she is still a young girl, and this is shown by her vulnerability to some of her sisters’ teasing. She is also something of a chemistry prodigy and has the good fortune of owning a professional lab, courtesy of the eccentricities of one of her ancestors. Her passion is for poison.
Soon after the novel starts, Flavia literally trips over a corpse in the garden. (Rather than being afraid, she demonstrates her fascination with chemistry by closely observing the minute changes that death affects upon bodies.) The police are called and, offended by the dismissive attitude of those men, she decides that she’ll solve the mystery herself! Of course, solving the mystery becomes much more personal and urgent when her father becomes a suspect. Flavia uses her local library (yay!) and asks pointed questions to ferret out clues. She’s pretty successful too. Despite a rather drawn out conclusion and a convenient rescue towards the end, the book satisfies. I’m pleased that there is a sequel already published and more on the way.
Alan Bradley, the author, is enjoying international success with this series. This book has won the 2007 Debut Dagger Award, the 2009 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, the 2009 Dylis Award, and the 2010 Spotted Owl Award. Despite appearances, he is not an overnight success. He spent his life teaching writing classes and creating short children’s pieces. He published two books prior to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. He is a native of Canada.
I am not a very experienced mystery reader. I have the bad habit of reading the end of all my books to make sure that the journey of reading will be worth my effort. (I don’t want to be disappointed by an unsatisfactory ending after spending several hours/days with a book!) This bad habit is especially ruinous when I read a mystery. For that reason, I usually try to “read” mysteries by listening to them on audio book. However, I resisted temptation and didn’t read the end of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. In honor of having to discuss it with my book club, I tried to guess who the murderer was. At one point, I was convinced that it was an accidental death. In the end, I was completely wrong. What about you? Do you try to guess who the criminal is when you read mysteries? Are you usually right? or wrong?