by Alan Bradley
Flavia de Luce is not your average eleven year old. She lives in a decaying mansion. She has a passion for chemistry, especially poisons. And when she finds a man dying in her cucumber patch, it doesn't occur to her to be worried or scared. Instead, Flavia senses something delicious may come of it: adventure.
Thus Flavia sets out to find out just who the man is, and how he came to be dying in her cucumber patch. But what starts off as a fun, mysterious way to spend the summer of 1950 turns into something much more when Flavia's father is arrested for the crime -- and she must prove his innocence before it's too late.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is slightly out of the norm for me in that I tend to avoid mysteries. I figure them out too soon, so they bore me and come off as cheesy. But I'd heard good things about this one, I was completely caught by the title and, yes, the cover (you know me), and precocious Flavia sounded interesting. So not only did I decide to give it a try, but I even went ahead and bought it. I do not regret this impetuous decision.
Flavia is delightful in her little-genius antics, and though her precociousness is occasionally somewhat irritating (as with all precociousness), she remains consistently entertaining. She's bold and bright and adventurous, and like many a genius, slightly off. She occasionally reminded me of Merricat Blackwood from We Have Always Lived in the Castle, whom, if you remember, I found captivating, even if she was a loon. Flavia isn't a loon, but her obsession with poisons does make her narration slightly suspect on occasion, which adds an interesting element.
The tone throughout the book is fun and intriguing. It's like some weird love-child of We Have Always Lived in the Castle + nostalgic/atmospheric/eccentric/British coming of age lit (think I Capture the Castle) + a cozy mystery. That's some parentage, and it makes for interesting offspring. The characters are fun and quirky, and this extends beyond Flavia, though she certainly takes the cake in this regard.
And even for me, who always figures things out and then gets disgusted -- even for me the mystery was fun. It's the sort that, even if you figure it out, there's still enough suspense, still enough tension, still enough interest to keep me going. You want to know how it's going to work out; more specifically, you want to know how Flavia's going to wriggle out of this one and come out on top, because she's that type of character; you just know she will.
I think, whether you like mysteries or you typically avoid them like me, you'll like Sweetness, and you'll intend to continue on with the series, The Buckshaw Chronicles -- you just have to know what Flavia's going to get herself into next!
<--- Hey! That's a Rat Badge! This is the first time I've used one. It's for nail-biters, but I think I need to make one specifically for mysteries. If you want to know more about the badges, or use one yourself, click it; it will take you where you want to go.
Review part of:
Elie's Bottoms Up Challenge
Bart's Bookshelf's 2010 Challenge
Flavia has her own fan club. It has photos, discussions, reviews and a whole mess of stuff.
You can read an excerpt on Random House's tS@tBotπ page. <-- ha. I just amused myself.
After you've read tS@tBotπ, check out these discussion questions.
Alan Bradley won the Crime Writer's Association's Debut Dagger Award for tS@tBotπ.
This really doesn't tell you a damn thing about the book, but I think it's neato: