2009 Mystery

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a delightful cozy mystery. The book is set in a small English village in the 1950s and the story begins with 10-year-old Flavia de Luce finding a dead snipe on her doorstep. The bird has a postage stamp impaled on its beak and her father’s reaction to the discovery implies that this is a warning of worse to come. His fears are confirmed when a man is found dying in a cucumber patch.

Flavia de Luce is a budding chemist with access to a laboratory in her country house. She enjoys learning about poisons and other chemical reactions – I loved her! She was such a wonderful, quirky character and I liked reading about the preparation and effects of various poisons. She wasn’t entirely believable as a ten-year-old, but then much of the plot was a bit far fetched so I don’t think realism is the key aim of this book!

“I wonder, Flavia,” Inspector Hewitt said, stepping gingerly into the cucumbers, “if you might ask someone to organize some tea?”
He must have seen the look on my face.
“We’ve had rather an early start this morning. Do you think you could manage to rustle something up?”
So that was it. As at a birth, so at a death. Without so much as a kiss-me-quick-and-mind-the-marmalade, the only female in sight is enlisted to trot off, and see that the water is boiled. Rustle something up, indeed! What did he take me for, some kind of cowboy?

The plot was fast paced and entertaining. It needed little concentration – I read much of it on a train journey, a time when I find the noise prevents me from reading anything too deep. The ending wasn’t earth-shattering, but the light mystery was well resolved.

Overall I enjoyed my journey back into the charming life of 1950s England and while I won’t be rushing out to buy the next in the series (The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag ) I’m sure I’ll get round to it at some point.

Did you enjoy The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie?

Which is your favourite cozy mystery?

50 replies on “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley”

Stujallen, I don’t think that Bradley is in the same league as Agatha Christie. This book is light entertainment – no where near as complex as Agatha Christie. It is still worth reading though, so I hope you enjoy it!

I have this one on my shelf, and I know I will read it someday soon. I need cozy once in awhile, and Flavia sounds endearing. I must say I think I like the other cover better!!!

Flavia’s such a fun character! I did think as I was reading it, though, that Bradley would have to do slightly stronger mysteries in subsequent books. Flavia’s great, but he can’t coast on that forever.

Jenny, I agree. If Flavia and the poisons hadn’t been in this book I would have found it quite disappointing. The mystery was a bit weak and I hope that is improved in the rest of the series.

I thought the story was so-so, but the characters really make the book. One of my favs was when Flavia called her sister the “Devil’s Hairball”.

I absolutely loved this one when I read it last year. I can see what you mean about Flavia not really coming across as an 11 year old but I think when you look at the context of her life and the times she has grown up in I find her believable at that age. I have just finished the second in the series and I was a bit disappointed by it so I think you have made a wise decision to not read it at the moment given you weren’t totally in love with the first book!

I loved Flavia’s character in this book. She was so fun and quirky and entertaining to read about–and her relationships with her family were so perfect. I haven’t read the next one yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

I think you liked this one a bit more than me. I liked it, but didn’t love it and am in no great rush to read the next one. Mostly likely I will at some point, but no rush.

I agree that at first I kept thinking how unlike a 10yearold Flavia sounded, and also how much I wished I could have been like her when I was ten, but then I just went along for the ride and enjoyed it so much. This is a wonderful book!

Lu, I wish I had access to a laboratory as a ten-year-old! I wouldn’t like the dead body in my garden, but the rest of the book sounds like a nice childhood.

This book arrived in the post yesterday, so I’ll be reading it sometime soon. Yours is the first review I’ve read that doesn’t mention wanting to read the sequel as soon as possible.

Violet, You don’t have that long to wait – I always think that anticipation makes a book even better!

I’d love to visit your blog, but the link in your name isn’t working – I’ll try to work out what it should be 🙂

I’ve been meaning to read this–it sounds like something I would enjoy. I think she has a second book out already, too. For cozy mysteries I like Maisie Dobbs novels by Jacqueline Winspear, which are set after WWI. There are loads of good mysteries out there it seems, this one definitely has a different spin to it!

I’m glad you liked this one. I found it charming! I checked out the second one from my library but hadn’t had a chance to read it by the time it was due, so I need to check it out again.

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