The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley

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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?

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  1. Stujallen says:

    this is one i want to read ,it sounds really quirky and the christie like in a new age

    1. Jackie says:

      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!

  2. vivienne says:

    I bought this last month and really look forward to reading it.

    1. Jackie says:

      vivienne, Enjoy!

  3. Amanda says:

    I think I have finally decided ot read this. I ordered it (and the sequel) from the library.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amanda, Sounds as though you’ll get to the sequel before me – I look forward to seeing what you make of them.

  4. Bina says:

    I simply adored that book and indeed rushed out to get the second one, which is just as great :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Bina, Sounds as though you enjoyed it a bit more than me, but it is good to know that you liked the second just as much.

  5. Frances says:

    Just love Flavia and these books! Found them to be a great YA read too.

    1. Jackie says:

      Frances, I’m surprised these books aren’t marketed towards the YA market – I agree that they’d enjoy these books too.

  6. Sandy says:

    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!!!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, It is great to mix up the type of books you read. I needed this after some of the disturbing books I’ve been reading recently.

  7. Jenny says:

    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.

    1. Jackie says:

      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.

  8. Cindy says:

    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”.

    1. Jackie says:

      Cindy, LOL! There were so many charming insults in this book!

  9. Karen says:

    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!

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, Perhaps you are right. I don’t know that much about life in 1950s – perhaps they were all more mature for their age back then!

  10. diane says:

    I thought this was a very sweet debut mystery. The second book was rather good as well. glad u liked it Jackie

    1. Jackie says:

      diane, I think sweet is a good word for this book. I hope I enjoy the seond one when I get round to it.

  11. Anna says:

    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.

    1. Jackie says:

      Anna, Let’s hope her family relationships are just as entertaining in the second of the series.

  12. caite says:

    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.

    1. Jackie says:

      caite, It sounds as though we had a similar opinion on it. I didn’t love it either, but it was an enjoyable read.

  13. Lu says:

    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!

    1. Jackie says:

      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.

  14. Everything I hear about this book makes it sound utterly delightful! I can’t wait to read it for myself!

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I hope that you enjoy it!

  15. Iris says:

    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.

    1. Jackie says:

      Iris, It will be interesting to see if you want to rush out to buy the sequel after reading it. I look forward to seeing your review.

  16. Elise says:

    This looks like a great story!! I haven’t read it myself but am quite interested.

    1. Jackie says:

      Elise, I hope you decide to seek it out and give it a try!

  17. Violet says:

    I adored this book. So fresh and unusual. Am so looking forward to reading the next one, which comes out in June in Australia, I think.

    1. Jackie says:

      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 :-)

  18. I loved this book when I read it a few months back. I just loved the character of Flavia! I can’t wait to read the next one – not sure if it’s out here in the States yet; I’ll have to look.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, The hardback verison of The Weed that Strings…came out in the US at the beginning of March, so you should be able to find it now.

  19. I really want to read this. But there are so many books I want to read right now. Oh the joy of being a book nerd…

    1. Jackie says:

      Susi, LOL! I know exactly how you feel!

  20. Amy says:

    Glad you liked it! Flavia was a bit much for her age wasn’t she, I just couldn’t help loving her though :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, Exactly! I loved her, so didn’t really care if she was realistic or not.

  21. Stephanie says:

    This looks like a novel I’d thoroughly enjoy. I rarely read cozy mysteries, but somehow I know I’d love this one. :-) Great review.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, If you like cozy mysteries then you’ll love this one – enjoy!

  22. Jenners says:

    I enjoyed this book so much … I thought Flavia was such a treat! I didn’t think the mystery part of it was all that inspired … I just enjoyed Flavia!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, Hopefully the mystery will improve as the series goes on.

  23. Beth F says:

    I loved this book. I love Flavia and I already own the next book!

  24. Danielle says:

    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!

  25. Stephanie says:

    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.

  26. I listened to this on audio, and really enjoyed it. Flavia is the kind of girl I wish I had been (well, without the corpse in my garden!)

  27. Rebecca Reid says:

    I am not a mystery reader but I have had this one on my radar. It does sound like a light book for when I am in the mood.

  28. Ann says:

    I have this on my list of ‘to be read’. Thanks for the review. I like a nice “modern” cozy mystery.

    Ann Summerville
    Cozy In Texas

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