The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, Review: Quirky

In The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley has conjured up an enchanting little world with charismatic characters that readers will love. Read on for our full review.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley - Book CoverThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie Synopsis

Meet Flavia: Mystery Solver. Master Poisoner. 11 Years Old.

England 1950. At Buckshaw, the crumbling country seat of the de Luce family, very-nearly-eleven-year-old Flavia is plotting revenge on her older sisters.

Then a dead bird is left on the doorstep, which has an extraordinary effect on Flavia’s eccentric father, and a body is found in the garden. As the police descend on Buckshaw, Flavia decides to do some investigating of her own.

Praise for the historical Flavia de Luce mysteries:

‘The Flavia de Luce novels are now a cult favourite’ – Mail on Sunday

‘A cross between Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle and the Addams family…delightfully entertaining’ – Guardian

Disclosure: If you click a link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.

BOOK REVIEW

Quirky and captivating. Flavia de Luce, protagonist and narrator, is a precocious little miss – but one the reader will fall under the spell of. Flavia de Luce even has her own website. Flavia exhibits wisdom beyond her years and shares many gems with the reader.

‘Feely says that there is a broken telephone connection, between men and women, and we can never know which of us rang off. With a boy you never know whether he’s smitten or gagging, but with a girl you can tell in the first three seconds.’

She also graces us with her dry wit and a little evil streak that made me smile on countless occasions.

‘I waited as this sunk in. Communicating with Ned was like exchanging cabled messages with a slow reader in Mongolia.’

And most importantly of all, Flavia de Luce is a book lover.

Many classic novels and authors are referred to throughout The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. What more can a reader want in a protagonist?

As I stood outside in Cow Lane, it occurred to me that Heaven must be a place where the library is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.’

Ostensibly, the setting of this cosy mystery is 1950s post-war England, in the village of Bishop’s Lacey. Central to the novel is the grand home of the de Luce family through the centuries called Buckshaw. I say ostensibly because there is a touch of fairy dust sprinkled throughout this novel reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. Every object and every character is larger than life. A large part of the novel’s charm lies in the way Alan Bradley manages to anthropomorphise the seemingly mundane. Take Flavia’s description of a motor garage for example:

‘… it had been the garage where autos had their oil and tyres change, their axles lubricated and other intimate underside adjustments seen too.’

But what about the story?

Well, I do not think I am giving much away by saying our little hero Flavia solves the mystery. The most enjoyable part is going along for the ride with her while she does it. Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie has been a huge success and that success is well-deserved.

Bradley‘s talent as an author really shines through, as does his extraordinary vocabulary. For those that have not had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Flavia de Luce I strongly urge you to do so – you will not regret it.

BOOK RATING: The Writing 5 / 5 ; The Story 4.5 / 5  —  Overall 4.75

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This book counts towards my participation in the Cozy Mystery Challenge.

Fans of M. C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin, Frances Brody and Alexander McCall Smith will enjoy the Flavia de Luce mysteries:

1. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
2. The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
3. A Red Herring Without Mustard
4. I Am Half Sick of Shadows
5. Speaking From Among the Bones
6. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches
7. As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust
8. Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d
9. The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place

* Each Flavia de Luce mystery can be read as a standalone or in series order *

About the Author, Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, his first novel, which went on to win the Agatha Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Macavity Award and the Spotted Owl Award. He is the author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. He co-authored Ms. Holmes of Baker Street with the late William A.S. Sarjeant. Bradley lives in Malta with his wife and two calculating cats. Check out his website.

Related Reads:
The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan
The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
The #1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey
We Ate The Road Like Vultures by Lynnette Lounsbury

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14 Comments

  1. As much as I LOVED this book and recommend it highly as well (it is an AMAZING debut), I loved the second book in the series, THE WEED THAT STRINGS THE HANGMAN'S BAG, even more. Can't wait for the next one. I recently reread Josephine Tey's wonderful mystery, A SHILLING FOR CANDLES in which there is a character kind of similar to Flavia and I've wondered since if Bradley might not have been influenced by Tey's work.

  2. Gina – I don't believe there is any content in this that would be unsuitable for young teenagers, but I don't think they would get the full charm of the novel as some of the humour and references are aimed at adults. What does everyone else think?

    Booksploring, Caitlin, Bibliophile – I want to be Flavia! And can't wait to read #2.

    Suko, Coffee…, marg, Becky, Sam – You should definitely read it. Glad I started this series at the beginning so i can go along for the whole ride. If you follow the link to Flavia's website I provided, there is a full series outline (6 books).