The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The Buckshaw Chronicles, Book 1
Finished: May 19, 2009
First Published: April 128, 2009
Genre: mystery, cozy, Gothic
It was as black in the closet as old blood.
Reason for Reading: At first, the title grabbed me. Then I read the publisher's summary and was very excited to read this mystery. I received a review copy from Random House Canada.
Comments: Flavia is an 11-year-old girl who lives in a run-down ancestral home in a tiny village in England with her Father, two sisters and a few servants. Flavia isn't your ordinary 11yo, she has taken over an ancient chemistry studio in the house from a former ancestor and her whole world revolves around chemistry. Her speciality? Poisons. Early one morning Flavia stumbles upon a dead man lying in the cucumber patch and that is just the beginning of a series of events that Flvaia becomes involved in as she finds herself matching wits with the local Inspector who has her father under suspicion of the murder.
What an incredibly, deliciously, devilish mystery. This is like nothing I've read before. A pure joy to read. The characters were all entirely eccentric from the main protagonist down to the secondary and minor characters. The mystery is both what I would call a cozy and a Gothic mystery. It is a cozy in the sense that it is very Agatha Christie in presentation, lots of mental deduction going on and no gory details, plenty of suspects to choose from and each a nuisance in their own way. On the otherhand Bradley presents a very Gothic feel to his mystery with the old run down buildings and other old English settings, such as a school bell tower, Flavia's macabre interest in poison and the equally devilishly (though not life-threatening) pranks that she and her sisters play on each other. Characters appear suddenly at windows and loom out of the fog. It really is just splendidly atmospheric writing but completely cozy for those who like their mysteries clean and intelligent rather than soaked in blood.
I only had one small problem and I can't really say for sure whether it was the author or just myself. The novel's narrator is an 11-year-old girl and I don't think it was completely maintained throughout. I'm sure it is difficult to write an adult novel in a child's voice and it is not something that one reads everyday. At times I often forgot it was a child telling the story until a word or phrase would bring it back to my mind; I also often forgot the narrator was a girl until she mentioned wearing a dress or such. This was something that irked me a little bit, but otherwise I am full of recommendations for this book. I think a wide variety of mystery fans are going to enjoy this book and there are already two further volumes in the series planned for future release! I think Flavia de Luce may just become a future British TV series as she is just that compelling; I'd love to see her come to life on the screen and can't wait to read her next mystery!