Friday, August 31, 2012

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

We all know that Carol at Magistramater has impeccable taste, so when she mentions a book more than once, it behooves you to run right out and get it.  (Thank heavens for kindle library books so that I could download it even here in Brazil.)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is an absorbing murder mystery that takes place in England in the 1950’s. Its 11 year old protagonist has an obsession for chemistry, particularly poisonous concoctions.  Flavia de Luce finds a body in the garden and for the whole novel is always one step ahead of the police in discovering “whodunit.”

The book is chock-full of intriguing characters from the gardener with memory lapses, the stamp collecting father, the deceased mother, to the two obnoxious sisters.  Normally I eschew meanness, but Flavia’s vicious jibes at her two siblings are laugh out loud funny.

Although this is Alan Bradley’s first novel, he’s been writing short stories for many years and it shows.  He is a master of description and understated wit:  

 She gasped.  Her face went red, then gray, as if it had caught fire before my eyes and collapsed in an avalanche of ashes.  She pulled a lace handkerchief from her sleeve, knotted it, and jammed it into her mouth, and for a few moments, she sat there, rocking in her chair, gripping the lace between her teeth like an eighteenth-century seaman having his leg amputated below the knee. (p. 68)

A long hallway, hung profusely with dark, water-stained sporting prints, served as a lobby, in which centuries of sacrificed kippers had left the smell of their smoky souls clinging to the wallpaper. (p. 98)

Blessings on you, Carol, and on you, Mr. Bradley.  I look forward to reading the rest of the series.


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I loved it, too!

Sherry said...

Your first line is the truth, and I need to read this book since both you and Carol recommend it.

Carol in Oregon said...

Oh, I'm glad you liked it, Hope!

I loved your sentence, "Normally I eschew meanness..." I've thought about this. I'm not certain I would like Flavia in person, but as a character in a novel, she's quite the pippin.