On The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

“I found a dead body in the cucumber patch,’ I told them.

‘How very like you,’ Ophelia said, and went on preening her eyebrows.”

Alan BradleyThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, pg 35

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a perfect example of mistakenly judging a book by its cover. I’ve shelved this book a dozen times at my library, thinking it was one of those culinary and knitting mysteries that have become such a popular sub-genre. Had I realized this mystery featured a morbid 11-year-old girl detective in 1950s England, I would have checked it out years ago.

Flavia de Luce is no preteen Nancy Drew. They both are raised by their fathers, have amazing deductive reasoning, and won’t let a locked door stop their investigations. But the similarities end there. Flavia is more intense and far less hygienic, moral or kind. Her passion is chemistry -in particular experimentation in poisons. She adventures alone, without a Ned, Bess or George for companionship. As a mom, I wanted to reach into the pages, grab her and lecture her on her childish sense of immortality.

This passage captures Flavia:

“I made the Girl Guide three-eared bunny salute with my fingers. I did not tell him that I was technically no longer a member of that organization, and hadn’t been since I was chucked out for manufacturing ferric hydroxide to earn my Domestic Service badge. No one seemed to care that it was the antidote for arsenic poisoning.” (pgs. 306-307)

Flavia is the reason to pick up this novel. I didn’t find the mystery particularly spell-binding, but her character makes up for that. She reminds me of a feral kitten–somehow still cute even after its lashed you with its razor claws. Pick her up 😉

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4 thoughts on “On The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

  1. I’ve never heard of these books until I saw this one on the coming week’s featured line up on bookreportradio(dot)com. (Also having an interview with author David Baldacci which piqued my interest in someone who comes across so down to earth). My teen daughter often listens to the show with me and she loves reading – a bit confused regarding the story revolving around a murder, but featuring an 11 year old. Do you thing young teens would enjoy this, and would it be age appropriate? What age limit would you put on this book?
    Thanks for your feedback.
    BTW, for other’s interested, you can find the station guide, as well as archived shows on the website “bookreportrado(dot)com.” It’s a lovely resource for book lovers.

    1. Thanks for the site info! I think a young teen might enjoy this series. The narrator is morbid for a child, but a lot of YA fic is dark these days. There are definitely moments when an adult reader would be amused by the narrator’s naivete, and those might not be as funny to a teen. But overall I think a teen would enjoy it.

      1. Thanks for the feedback, Amanda. You’re right…so much of what they are reading is dark; can’t imagine my girls reading the likes of Catherine Cookson and other’s that were popular when I was young! 🙂

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