Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Why, oh why, did I wait so freakin' long to read this book? I seem to say that to myself a lot. You'd think I'd learn and just read the books quicker. Ha! 

Anyway, I really enjoyed this cozy mystery full of Britishness (by a Canadian author!). I am not usually a mystery reader. I give mysteries a very wide berth for some reason, but I just couldn't resist the lure of the precocious 10-year-old protagonist, Flavia de Luce. It's the year 1950 and she has a passion for poisons. And she lives in a big manor house called Buckshaw. And her father is a philatelist. And her sisters are named Daphne (Daffy) and Ophelia (Feely!). And, and, and!

The trouble really starts when Flavia finds a body in the cucumber patch. This unstoppable kid begins to tease out clues and launches a full-on investigation once her father takes the fall for the crime. 

There was so much to love in this book. The rich language and the hilarious dialogue. Flavia's inner thoughts and powers of deduction are gold. It's not all slapstick and guffaws, though. At the center, Flavia is a very lonely girl. Her older sisters don't pay her a bit of attention, her father is a recluse, and her mother is dead. She is whip-smart and keeps herself busy with intellectual endeavors, but the closest thing she has to a normal "loving" family is Dogger, the PTSD gardener, and the housekeeper, Mrs. Mullet. They are annoying, but that's part of the territory, I suppose.

It was soooo easy and wonderful to sink into this book. It has a glaze of old world charm that's hard to pin down. Books like A Series of Unfortunate Events and Harry Potter come to mind. But this one, of course, isn't for young readers necessarily and it's not magical in the slightest. But there's a playfulness to the language and a wealth of description that made me feel carried away in much the same way I felt in reading these other books. 

Dusty books, vials of poison, volumes of stamps, dusty furniture, bright terraces and shady graveyards. I just couldn't get enough of the setting, and that darned Flavia. I can't say that the mystery was terribly beguiling. I guessed quite a few of the twists and turns, but others genuinely took me by surprise, or I'd be wondering about the details until the last minute. And other issues were left slightly undone, but not in an annoying way. 

I just can't say enough good things. I definitely can't wait to read the next book in the series!

Pub. Date: January 2010
Publisher: Random House
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780385343497
Source: Bought it!

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