The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

By Alan Bradley
Binding:Hardcover
Publisher:Delacorte Press, (4/28/2009)
Language:English



Average Rating:
Unleash it
3.25 out of 5 (8 Clubie's ratings)


Buy Now From
buy it now from Amazon
buy it now from Barns and Noble
buy it now from Indie Bookstore


 
In his wickedly brilliant first novel, Debut Dagger Award winner Alan Bradley introduces one of the most singular and engaging heroines in recent fiction: eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. It is the summer of 1950—and a series of inexplicable events has struck Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia’s family calls home. A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

To Flavia the investigation is the stuff of science: full of possibilities, contradictions, and connections. Soon her father, a man raising his three daughters alone, is seized, accused of murder. And in a police cell, during a violent thunderstorm, Colonel de Luce tells his daughter an astounding story—of a schoolboy friendship turned ugly, of a priceless object that vanished in a bizarre and brazen act of thievery, of a Latin teacher who flung himself to his death from the school’s tower thirty years before. Now Flavia is armed with more than enough knowledge to tie two distant deaths together, to examine new suspects, and begin a search that will lead her all the way to the King of England himself. Of this much the girl is sure: her father is innocent of murder—but protecting her and her sisters from something even worse….

An enthralling mystery, a piercing depiction of class and society, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a masterfully told tale of deceptions—and a rich literary delight.
Like this book? Then you might also like these...

 
 

Book Junky's thoughts on "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"
updated on:12/9/2009

Intrigue with stamps! Yes, you read that correctly. Doesn't sound possible, but Alan Bradley pulled it off! Not quite Dan Brown in suspense and thrill, but I'd put Flavia in a head to head with Langdon for character interest any day - and I think Flavia would WIN! She really does make this a book worth reading.

Very Unleashable



Unscribbler's thoughts on "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"
updated on:12/7/2009



Unleash it



Librarian Susan's thoughts on "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"
updated on:10/6/2009

Nice light read but a fabulous protaganist.

Mildly Unleashable



Alice_Wonder's thoughts on "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"
updated on:9/20/2009

I really like the main character. This is the first of a new series and I plan to get the next in the series as soon as it is published next year.

Very Unleashable



Reese's thoughts on "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"
updated on:9/9/2009

There is definitely room for both of you, as you are the reigning queen....but move over Nancy Drew. Make room for Flavia de Luce. This was a fun book(right down to the awesome keepsake hardback cover)full of mystery, family hijinks, and interesting characters set in England at the decaying mansion of the de Luce family. Flavia, the 11 year old girl wonder, budding chemist/poison expert extraordinaire and now fearless crime solver is quite full of life. My favorite thing about her IS her fearless nature while in search of the truth. With the typical, "yeah right" adventures throughout the book, she dives in head first with thought later!! And brings the reader right along. And most always with her handy companion "Gladys"...no not another girl crime solver but her trusty bike who somehow managed to become a character for me. In the midst of dodging the detectives, trying to protect the people she cares about and antagonizing her sisters, Flavia gets the job done with flare and wit. I do wish the author had developed the other characters a little more because they are so on the periphery in many ways...especially her somewhat vacant father, her snively sisters and the beloved "Dogger". Who are they? I believe this might be the first in a series of Flavia books though, so I'm sure we will learn more about all of them. A great discussion question for book clubs might be: What did you think about Flavia referring to her mother by her first name “Harriet” throughout the book? I think it’s about more than the obvious answer….

Unleash it



Sam's thoughts on "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"
updated on:8/31/2009

Ignore the adage; this book should be judged by its cover. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a visually stunning hardcover book. It somehow looks brand new and ancient at the same time, and the story inside mimics its façade. A cold-blooded murder has been committed at Buckshaw, the old-money mansion-cum-chemistry lab of Flavia de Luce. When she discovers the victim, lying in the cucumber patch, her 11-year-old mind starts deducing, and it doesn’t stop until she’s solved the crime. This is certainly the most clever girl-sleuth since Nancy Drew, and readers will marvel at her book smarts, street sense, and quick wit. I found the plot of the crime a bit contrived, but the seeing through the eyes of a brilliant t’ween Flavia made it more interesting. Some of my favorite parts of the book involved Flavia and her interactions with her callous sisters – pure comic relief.

Unleash it



Nick's thoughts on "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"
updated on:8/31/2009

The protagonist, Flavia, has got to be one of the most likable characters around. She is the ideal mixture of smart, moxy and 11 year old innocence. Perfectly illustrated when she was planning how to get out of a predicament by knowing to and wanting to "kick the man in the Casanovas" but being unable to.... as she did not knowing where the "Casanovas" were. She was fabulous! Watching her investigate the mysterious death of a stranger found (by her) in their cucumber patch was very fun for the most part. Though I did find myself getting annoyed a few times at some of her lines of deductive reasoning, I had to remind myself despite her intelligence, she was in fact 11 and some silly reasoning should be allowed. (But if I was in a movie theater I probably would have yelled at the screen.) Great historical references, and overall great cast of characters. The mystery of the book was intricate, but overall that was just ok and a tad predictable. The mystery gives this a "Unleash it" from me, but Flavia's fun character makes it "Very Unleashable" for me. I am pleased to see that this is going to be a series, just so I can snicker, connive and sleuth with Flavia some more.

Very Unleashable



Ceci's thoughts on "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"
updated on:8/26/2009

This is a fun murder mystery (and how many times do you see “fun” and “murder” right next to each other, really?). It’s steeped in the basic traditions of English mystery novels, but spiced up with modern touches like serious sibling rivalry, post-traumatic stress disorder, and English class disparity. Oh, and the narrator is a brutally precocious 11-year old. Now, there was a time that I loved the traditional murder mystery, but that time has passed – they tend to be pretty formulaic and after a while you catch on. However. This one does receive decently high marks from me as a standout due to the fabulously funny voice of Flavia de Luce, and the fact that trying to figure out her own family is as much of a mystery to her as the murder itself. p.s. If you can, do read the Delacorte Press hardcover edition of this book. It’s much smaller than your typical hardcover. Every time I held it I was sent straight back to my days of reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, which when I was a kid, were also published as these tiny hardbacks.

Unleash it


"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"
By Alan Bradley

Average Rating:
Unleash it
3.25 out of 5 (8 Clubie's ratings)


August's BB Book Club Book Pick:

Landline
Landline
By Rainbow Rowell


 
 
 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.
 
 

1. With her high level of knowledge, her erudition and her self-reliance, Flavia hardly seems your typical eleven-year-old girl. Or does she? Discuss Flavia and her personality, and how her character drives this novel. Can you think of other books that have used a similar protagonist?

2. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie falls within the tradition of English country house mysteries, but with the devilishly intelligent Flavia racing around Bishop’s Lacey on her bike instead of the expected older woman ferreting out the truth by chatting with her fellow villagers. Discuss how Bradley uses the traditions of the genre, and how he plays with them too.

3. What is your favorite scene from The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie?

4. With her excessive interest in poisons and revenge, it’s no surprise that Flavia is fascinated, not scared, as she watches the stranger die in her garden. In your view, is her dark matter-of-factness more refreshing or disturbing?

5. Flavia reminds us often about Harriet, the mother she never knew, and has many keepsakes that help her imagine what she was like. Do you think the real Harriet would have fit into Flavia’s mold?

6. Flavia’s distance from her father, the Colonel, is obvious, yet she loves him all the same. Does their relationship change over the course of the novel in a lasting way? Would Flavia want it to?

7. Through Flavia’s eyes what sort of a picture does Alan Bradley paint of the British aristocracy? Think as well about how appearances aren’t always reality, as with the borderline bankruptcy of Flavia’s father and Dr. Kissing.

8. Discuss the meaning (or meanings) of the title The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

9. What twists in the plot surprised you the most?

10. Buckshaw, the estate, is almost a character in its own right here, with its overlarge wings, hidden laboratory, and pinched front gates. Talk about how Bradley brings the setting to life in this novel – not only Buckshaw itself, but Bishop’s Lacey and the surrounding area.

11. What does Flavia care about most in life? How do the people around her compare to her chemistry lab and books?

12. Like any scientist. Flavia expects her world to obey certain rules, and seems to be thrown off kilter when surprises occur. How much does she rely on the predictability of those around her, like her father and her sisters, in order to pursue her own interests (like solving the murder)?

 

Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions

As a youngster, Kissing collected stamps with passion only to be matched by Flavia's passion for chemistry. Anything you were that passionate about when you were younger? (I think everyone goes through a dinosaur phase, but besides that?)



Submitted by
< previous See All next >  
 
 
Amazon.com Review
Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: It's the beginning of a lazy summer in 1950 at the sleepy English village of Bishop's Lacey. Up at the great house of Buckshaw, aspiring chemist Flavia de Luce passes the time tinkering in the laboratory she's inherited from her deceased mother and an eccentric great uncle. When Flavia discovers a murdered stranger in the cucumber patch outside her bedroom window early one morning, she decides to leave aside her flasks and Bunsen burners to solve the crime herself, much to the chagrin of the local authorities. But who can blame her? What else does an eleven-year-old science prodigy have to do when left to her own devices? With her widowed father and two older sisters far too preoccupied with their own pursuits and passions—stamp collecting, adventure novels, and boys respectively—Flavia takes off on her trusty bicycle Gladys to catch a murderer. In Alan Bradley's critically acclaimed debut mystery, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, adult readers will be totally charmed by this fearless, funny, and unflappable kid sleuth. But don't be fooled: this carefully plotted detective novel (the first in a new series) features plenty of unexpected twists and turns and loads of tasty period detail. As the pages fly by, you'll be rooting for this curious combination of Harriet the Spy and Sherlock Holmes. Go ahead, take a bite. --Lauren Nemroff
A Q&A with Alan Bradley

Question: With the publication of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, you’ve become a 70-year-old-first time novelist. Have you always had a passion for writing, or is it more of a recent development? 

Alan Bradley: Well, the Roman author Seneca once said something like this: “Hang on to your youthful enthusiasms--you’ll be able to use them better when you’re older.” So to put it briefly, I’m taking his advice.

I actually spent most of my life working on the technical side of television production, but would like to think that I’ve always been a writer. I started writing a novel at age five, and have written articles for various publications all my life. It wasn’t until my early retirement, though, that I started writing books. I published my memoir, The Shoebox Bible, in 2004, and then started working on a mystery about a reporter in England. It was during the writing of this story that I stumbled across Flavia de Luce, the main character in Sweetness.

Q: Flavia certainly is an interesting character. How did you come up with such a forceful, precocious and entertaining personality?

AB: Flavia walked onto the page of another book I was writing, and simply hijacked the story. I was actually well into this other book--about three or four chapters--and as I introduced a main character, a detective, there was a point where he was required to go to a country house and interview this colonel.

I got him up to the driveway and there was this girl sitting on a camp stool doing something with a notebook and a pencil and he stopped and asked her what she was doing and she said “writing down license number plates“ and he said “well there can't be many in such a place“ and she said, “well I have yours, don’t I? “ I came to a stop. I had no idea who this girl was and where she came from.

She just materialized. I can't take any credit for Flavia at all. I’ve never had a character who came that much to life. I’ve had characters that tend to tell you what to do, but Flavia grabbed the controls on page one. She sprung full-blown with all of her attributes--her passion for poison, her father and his history--all in one package. It surprised me.

Q: There aren’t many adult books that feature child narrators. Why did you want Flavia to be the voice of this novel?

AB: People probably wonder, “What’s a 70-year-old-man doing writing about an 11-year-old-girl in 1950s England? “ And it’s a fair question. To me, Flavia embodies that kind of hotly burning flame of our young years: that time of our lives when we’re just starting out, when anything--absolutely anything!--is within our capabilities.

I think the reason that she manifested herself as a young girl is that I realized that it would really be a lot of fun to have somebody who was virtually invisible in a village. And of course, we don’t listen to what children say--they’re always asking questions, and nobody pays the slightest attention or thinks for a minute that they’re going to do anything with the information that they let slip. I wanted Flavia to take great advantage of that. I was also intrigued by the possibilities of dealing with an unreliable narrator; one whose motives were not always on the up-and-up.

She is an amalgam of burning enthusiasm, curiosity, energy, youthful idealism, and frightening fearlessness. She’s also a very real menace to anyone who thwarts her, but fortunately, they don’t generally realize it.

Q: Like Flavia, you were also 11 years old in 1950. Is there anything autobiographical about her character?

AB: Somebody pointed out the fact that both Flavia and I lacked a parent. But I wasn’t aware of this connection during the writing of the book. It simply didn’t cross my mind. It is true that I grew up in a home with only one parent, and I was allowed to run pretty well free, to do the kinds of things I wanted. And I did have extremely intense interests then--things that you get focused on. When you’re that age, you sometimes have a great enthusiasm that is very deep and very narrow, and that is something that has always intrigued me--that world of the 11-year-old that is so quickly lost.

Q: Your story evokes such a vivid setting. Had you spent much time in the British countryside before writing this book?

AB: My first trip to England didn’t come until I went to London to receive the 2007 Debut Dagger Award, so I had never even stepped foot in the country at the time of writing Sweetness. But I have always loved England. My mother was born there. And I‘ve always felt I grew up in a very English household. I had always wanted to go and had dreamed for many years of doing so.

When I finally made it there, the England that I was seeing with my eyes was quite unlike the England I had imagined, and yet it was the same. I realized that the differences were precisely those differences between real life, and the simulation of real life, that we create in our detective novels. So this was an opportunity to create on the page this England that had been in my head my whole life.

Q: You have five more books lined up in this series, all coming from Delacorte Press. Will Flavia age as the series goes on?

AB: A bit, not very much. I think she’s going to remain in the same age bracket. I don’t really like the idea of Flavia as an older teenager. At her current age, she is such a concoction of contradictions. It's one of the things that I very much love about her. She's eleven but she has the wisdom of an adult. She knows everything about chemistry but nothing about family relationships. I don’t think she’d be the same person if she were a few years older. She certainly wouldn’t have access to the drawing rooms of the village.

Q: Do you have a sense of what the next books in the series will be about?

AB: The second book, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, is finished, and I’m working on the third book. I have a general idea of what’s happening in each one of the books, because I wanted to focus on some bygone aspect of British life that was still there in the '50s but has now vanished. So we have postage stamps in the first one... The second book is about the travelling puppet shows on the village green. And one of them is about filmmaking--it sort of harks back to the days of the classic Ealing comedies with Alec Guinness and so forth.

Q: Not every author garners such immediate success with a first novel. After only completing 15 pages of Sweetness, you won the Dagger award and within 8 days had secured book deals in 3 countries. You’ve since secured 19 countries. Enthusiasm continues to grow from every angle. How does it feel?

 

AB: It's like being in the glow of a fire. You hope you won't get burned. I’m not sure how much I’ve realized it yet. I guess I can say I‘m “almost overwhelmed”--I’m not quite overwhelmed, but I’m getting there. Every day has something new happening, and communications pouring in from people all over. The book has been receiving wonderful reviews and touching people. But Flavia has been touching something in people that generates a response from the heart, and the most often mentioned word in the reviews is love--how much people love Flavia and have taken her in as if she’s a long-lost member of their family, which is certainly very, very gratifying.

(Photo © Jeff Bassett)



From Publishers Weekly
Fans of Louise Fitzhugh's iconic Harriet the Spy will welcome 11-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce, the heroine of Canadian journalist Bradley's rollicking debut. In an early 1950s English village, Flavia is preoccupied with retaliating against her lofty older sisters when a rude, redheaded stranger arrives to confront her eccentric father, a philatelic devotee. Equally adept at quoting 18th-century works, listening at keyholes and picking locks, Flavia learns that her father, Colonel de Luce, may be involved in the suicide of his long-ago schoolmaster and the theft of a priceless stamp. The sudden expiration of the stranger in a cucumber bed, wacky village characters with ties to the schoolmaster, and a sharp inspector with doubts about the colonel and his enterprising young detective daughter mean complications for Flavia and enormous fun for the reader. Tantalizing hints about a gardener with a shady past and the mysterious death of Flavia's adventurous mother promise further intrigues ahead. (Apr.) 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 

From School Library Journal
Adult/High School—When a stranger shows up dying in her family's cucumber patch in the middle of the night, 11-year-old Flavia de Luce expands her interests from chemistry and poisons to sleuthing and local history. The youngest of a reclusive widower's three daughters, Flavia is accustomed to independence and takes delight in puzzles and "what if's." She is well suited to uncovering the meaning of the dead snipe left at the kitchen door, the story behind the bright orange Victorian postage stamps, and—eventually—the identity of the murderer and his relationship to the dying man. Bradley sets the protagonist on a merry course that includes contaminating her oldest sister's lipstick with poison ivy, climbing the bell tower of the local boys' school, and sifting through old newspapers in the village library's outbuilding. Flavia is brave and true and hilarious, and the murder mystery is clever and satisfying. Set in 1950, the novel reads like a product of that time, when stories might include insouciance but relative innocence, pranks without swear words, and children who were not so overscheduled or frightened that they couldn't make their way quite nicely in chatting up the police or the battle-shocked family retainer. Mystery fans, Anglophiles, and science buffs will delight in this book and may come away with a slightly altered view of what is possible for a headstrong girl to achieve.—Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Canadian Alan Bradley’s first full-length crime novel is delightful. Like fellow Canadian Louise Penny, his book is the recipient of the Debut Dagger Award from Canada’s Crime Writers’ Association. Sweetness introduces a charming and engaging sleuth who is only 11 years old. Flavia is one of three precocious and extremely literate daughters being raised by English widower Colonel de Luce in 1950. Flavia’s passion is chemistry (with a special interest in poisons). She is able to pursue her passion in the fully equipped Victorian laboratory in Buckshaw, the English mansion where the de Luce family lives. The story begins with a dead snipe (with a rare stamp embedded on its beak) found on the back doorstep. This is followed by a dead human body in the garden and, later, by a poisonous custard pie. Revelations about the mysterious past of Colonel de Luce complicate matters. Others supporting players include the housekeeper, Mrs. Mullet, and the gardener, Dogger, who suffers from shell shock. When Colonel de Luce is arrested for murder, it’s up to Flavia to solve the mystery. The 11-year-old claims she is not afraid because “this was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.” Only those who dislike precocious young heroines with extraordinary vocabulary and audacious courage can fail to like this amazingly entertaining book. Expect more from the talented Bradley. --Judy Coon 

Review
"While Flavia De Luce is winning your heart, she may also be poisoning your tea. She's the most wickedly funny sleuth in years, brilliant, unpredictable, unflappable—and only eleven. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie offers the freshest new voice in mystery yet."—Charles Todd, author of The Ian Rutledge series

"A wickedly clever story, a dead true and original voice, and an English country house in the summer: Alexander McCall Smith meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Please, please, Mr. Bradley, tell me we'll be seeing Flavia again soon?"—Laurie R. King, author of the Mary Russell series

“Alan Bradley’s marvelous book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, is a fantastic read, a winner. Flavia walks right off the page and follows me through my day. I can hardly wait for the next book. Bravo!” –Louise Penny, author of Still Life

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie offers the reader the precious gift of a richly imagined and luscious new world–but uniquely so, for this is the world of Flavia Sabina de Luce: an eleven-year-old, utterly winning, and altogether delightfully nasty piece of work. An outright pleasure from beginning to end.”—Gordon Dahlquist¸ author of The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

"Alan Bradley brews a bubbly beaker of fun in his devilishly clever, wickedly amusing debut mystery, launching an eleven-year-old heroine with a passion for chemistry–and revenge! What a delightful, original book!"—Carolyn Hart, author of the Death on Demand series 

“Utterly charming! Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce proves to be one of the most precocious, resourceful, and well, just plain dangerous, heroines around. Evildoers–and big sisters–beware!”—Lisa Gardner, author of Say Goodbye

"Flavi... --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition. 

Review
"While Flavia De Luce is winning your heart, she may also be poisoning your tea. She's the most wickedly funny sleuth in years, brilliant, unpredictable, unflappable—and only eleven. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie offers the freshest new voice in mystery yet."—Charles Todd, author of The Ian Rutledge series

"A wickedly clever story, a dead true and original voice, and an English country house in the summer: Alexander McCall Smith meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Please, please, Mr. Bradley, tell me we'll be seeing Flavia again soon?"—Laurie R. King, author of the Mary Russell series

“Alan Bradley’s marvelous book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, is a fantastic read, a winner. Flavia walks right off the page and follows me through my day. I can hardly wait for the next book. Bravo!” –Louise Penny, author of Still Life

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie offers the reader the precious gift of a richly imagined and luscious new world–but uniquely so, for this is the world of Flavia Sabina de Luce: an eleven-year-old, utterly winning, and altogether delightfully nasty piece of work. An outright pleasure from beginning to end.”—Gordon Dahlquist¸ author of The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

"Alan Bradley brews a bubbly beaker of fun in his devilishly clever, wickedly amusing debut mystery, launching an eleven-year-old heroine with a passion for chemistry–and revenge! What a delightful, original book!"—Carolyn Hart, author of the Death on Demand series 

“Utterly charming! Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce proves to be one of the most precocious, resourceful, and well, just plain dangerous, heroines around. Evildoers–and big sisters–beware!”—Lisa Gardner, author of Say Goodbye

"Flavia is an engagingly smart new sleuth with a flair for bringing out the child–and the detective–in all of us."—Christopher Fowler, author of the Peculiar Crimes Unit series

“Sure in its story, pace and voice, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie deliciously mixes all the ingredients of great storytelling. The kind of novel you can pass on to any reader knowing their pleasure it assured.”—Andrew Pyper, author of the The Killing Circle

“Told through the observations of science-experimenting snoop of an 11-year-old girl, this jolly-good-fun murder mystery is as indulgent as a Bunty annual. Flavia de Luce, daughter to a philatelist colonel father and late mother, who dies when she was a baby, finds a body in the cucumber patch. In the twists and turns that ensue, centering around the nesting habits of the snipe and the last word of the dead man, she proves herself as indomitable a sleuth as you would expect a girl who says “Oh, piffle” to be.—Good Housekeeping, UK

“In June 1950’s, very-nearly-eleven year old Flavia de Luce, rising above the torments of her two older sisters and plotting revenge in her Victorian chemistry lab, is intrigued by the mystery of snipe with a rare stamp in its beak, found on the doorstep of the crumbling de Luce country seat. And she is astonished by the effect the dead bird has on her stamp-obsessed father, the Colonel. When something much worse is found in the cucumber patch and family secrets begin to unravel, Flavia has to use all her deductive powers to solve a mystery and a crime. At once precocious and endearing, Flavia is a marvelous character. Quirkily appealing, this is definitely a crime novel with a difference.” –Choice Magazine, “Book of the Month.”

“Brilliant, irresistible and incorrigible, Flavia has a long future ahead of her…Bradley’s mystery debut is a standout. “—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Fun for the reader…. Fans of Louise Fitzhugh's iconic Harriet the Spy will welcome 11-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce, the heroine of … Bradley's rollicking debut.”—Publishers Weekly

“A delightful whodunit.…hilarious, eccentric and mischievous.”—Tangled Web, UK

“An absolute treat. It is original, clever, entertaining and funny….an extraordinary maze of mystery and intrigue…driving the reader to turn those pages in glorious anticipation….a terrific book, so different to anything.”—Material Witness

“Oh how astonishing and pleasing is genuine originality!....I simply cannot recall the last time I so enjoyed being the company of a first-person narrator….Bradley has a simply astonishing gift for putting simile and analogy in Flavia’s mouth…the plot is a splendid piece of hokum with some pleasing deduction and an excellent historical back-story….This is a book which triumphantly succeeds in its objectives of charming and delighting. And on top of that it is genuinely original….we may well be talking in a few years about one of the great voices and great series of mystery fiction. I resort to — and it is very, very rarely that I use this — that old cliché, a must-read.” –Reviewing the Evidence

“A wonderfully written, engaging novel….It’s rare that a book of which I feel quite passionately enraptured crosses my desk, and this is one of those special books that fully deserves five stars. The plot is well-paced, the dialogue is thoughtful and succinct, and being inside the head of Flavia de Luce is delightful. Her wry, dry humour and resigned frustration with the adult world are seriously entertaining….I loved her to bits.” –Oh Baby Magazine, NZ

“Delightfully entertaining.” –The Guardian, UK

“The first page…is so delicious, that I actually had to stop in the middle of The Girl Who Played with Fire to read the rest of it. Flavia deserves the Nobel Prize for Chemistry and Alan Bradley the Edgar Award. Does anyone collect stamps anymore?” –Paul Ingram

“If there ever was a heroine set for stardom it would be Flavia de Luce….Think Agatha Christie crossed with the Mitfords and laced with mischievous humour.” –Sunday Herald, Australia

“If you condensed Sherlock Holmes’s deductive abilities, Madame Curie’s talent for chemistry, and Dr. Jekyll’s zeal into the mind of an 11-year-old, her name would be Flavia de Luce….full of mystery, charm, and chemistry. Its quick-witted dialogue, tongue-in-cheek humour and colourful characters will linger long after the book is back on the shelf.”—Discovery Channel, in print

“She’s a fictional 11-year-old girl detective living in England in 1950. He’s a very real 70-year-old retired television engineer living today in Kelowna, B.C. Together they are soaring to great heights in the international literary world.”—Ottawa Citizen

“Bradley adroitly brews a biting yet empathetic read that’s anchored in the English countryside and public schools, and haunted by secrets. His fresh and innovative Flavia de Luce…is a new voice that’s brilliant and fierce, funny and vulnerable….I couldn’t read the book fast enough…Another serving, please!” –Marie Ary, Seattle Mystery Bookshop; Seattle, Washington

“Amazingly entertaining…The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie introduces a charming and engaging sleuth.”—Booklist, starred review

“A fresh, engaging first novel.”—Library Journal

Praise from the Debut Dagger Award Judges of the UK Crime Writers’ Association:


"Really adored the voice of the characters in this- especially Flavia, the spirited main protagonist- and the sense of place is beautifully described, particularly when telling the history of the house and its inhabitants. The family unit, comprising of the taciturn, introspective Colonel and his three daughters is well written, humorous and the sibling relationships very realistic. The author should be praised for creating a work that has nostalgic interest as well as a murder mystery, in places this almost reads like an Enid Blyton novel for adults!"

"I adored this! Our heroine is refreshingly youthful, funny and sharp and the author creates such a strong sense of time and place. Flavia’s eccentric family are delightful and I love seeing them interact within their crazy home. There are also interesting depths to the plot — the stamp collecting, the chemistry experiments, and the acknowledgement of past events and how they have affected these characters. The author’s tone is very tongue-in-cheek and offers something quite different in this genre, and the story is cleverly structured and beautifully written. This doesn’t read like a first novel. Assuming the mystery itself will be as enticing and smoothly handled as the opening, I can see Flavia solving crimes into adulthood. Great title too!" 

"The most original of the bunch, I think, with a deliciously deceptive opening which really sets the tone of macabre fun. Flavia is a wonderful creation, along with the rest of her eccentric family, and makes for a highly engaging sleuth. Think the Mitfords, as imagined by Dorothy L Sayers. The plot, with its intriguing philatelic elements, is nicely ingenious and delivers a very good end, with a fun twist. Would make very good Sunday night telly, I think."  


How can we make BookBundlz even better? Tell us what you think would make this website teh best for book clubs, reading groups and book lovers alike!
 
 
 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Chapter One


It was as black in the closet as old blood. they had shoved me in and locked the door. I breathed heavily through my nose, fighting desperately to remain calm. I tried counting to ten on every intake of breath, and to eight as I released each one slowly into the darkness. Luckily for me, they had pulled the gag so tightly into my open mouth that my nostrils were left unobstructed, and I was able to draw in one slow lungful after another of the stale, musty air.

I tried hooking my fingernails under the silk scarf that bound my hands behind me, but since I always bit them to the quick, there was nothing to catch. Jolly good luck then that I'd remembered to put my fingertips together, using them as ten firm little bases to press my palms apart as they had pulled the knots tight.

Now I rotated my wrists, squeezing them together until I felt a bit of slack, using my thumbs to work the silk down until the knots were between my palms—then between my fingers. If they had been bright enough to think of tying my thumbs together, I should never have escaped. What utter morons they were.

With my hands free at last, I made short work of the gag.

Now for the door. But first, to be sure they were not lying in wait for me, I squatted and peered out through the keyhole at the attic. Thank heavens they had taken the key away with them. There was no one in sight; save for its perpetual tangle of shadows, junk, and sad bric-a-brac, the long attic was empty. The coast was clear.

Reaching above my head at the back of the closet, I unscrewed one of the wire coat hooks from its mounting board. By sticking its curved wing into the keyhole and levering the other end, I was able to form an L-shaped hook which I poked into the depths of the ancient lock. A bit of judicious fishing and fiddling yielded a gratifying click. It was almost too easy. The door swung open and I was free.


I skipped down the broad stone staircase into the hall, pausing at the door of the dining room just long enough to toss my pigtails back over my shoulders and into their regulation position.
Father still insisted on dinner being served as the clock struck the hour and eaten at the massive oak refectory table, just as it had been when Mother was alive.

"Ophelia and Daphne not down yet, Flavia?" he asked peevishly, looking up from the latest issue of The British Philatelist, which lay open beside his meat and potatoes.

"I haven't seen them in ages," I said.

It was true. I hadn't seen them—not since they had gagged and blindfolded me, then lugged me hog-tied up the attic stairs and locked me in the closet.

Father glared at me over his spectacles for the statutory four seconds before he went back to mumbling over his sticky treasures.

I shot him a broad smile, a smile wide enough to present him with a good view of the wire braces that caged my teeth. Although they gave me the look of a dirigible with the skin off, Father always liked being reminded that he was getting his money's worth. But this time he was too preoccupied to notice.

I hoisted the lid off the Spode vegetable dish and, from the depths of its hand-painted butterflies and raspberries, spooned out a generous helping of peas. Using my knife as a ruler and my fork as a prod, I marshaled the peas so that they formed meticulous rows and columns across my plate: rank upon rank of little green spheres, spaced with a precision that would have delighted the heart of the most exacting Swiss watchmaker. Then, beginning at the bottom left, I speared the first pea with my fork and ate it.

It was all Ophelia's fault. She was, after all, seventeen, and therefore expected to possess at least a modicum of the maturity she should come into as an adult. That she should gang up with Daphne, who was thirteen, simply wasn't fair. Their combined ages totalled thirty years. Thirty years!—against my eleven. It was not only unsporting, it was downright rotten. And it simply screamed out for revenge.

Next morning i was busy among the flasks and flagons of my chemical laboratory on the top floor of the east wing when Ophelia barged in without so much as a la-di-dah.

"Where's my pearl necklace?"

I shrugged. "I'm not the keeper of your trinkets."

"I know you took it. The Mint Imperials that were in my lingerie drawer are gone too, and I've observed that missing mints in this household seem always to wind up in the same grubby little mouth."

I adjusted the flame on a spirit lamp that was heating a beaker of red liquid. "If you're insinuating that my personal hygiene is not up to the same high standard as yours you can go suck my galoshes."

"Flavia!"

"Well, you can. I'm sick and tired of being blamed for everything, Feely."

But my righteous indignation was cut short as Ophelia peered shortsightedly into the ruby flask, which was just coming to the boil.

"What's that sticky mass in the bottom?" Her long manicured fingernail tapped at the glass.

"It's an experiment. Careful, Feely, it's acid!"

Ophelia's face went white. "Those are my pearls! They belonged to Mummy!"

Ophelia was the only one of Harriet's daughters who referred to her as "Mummy": the only one of us old enough to have any real memories of the flesh-and-blood woman who had carried us in her body, a fact of which Ophelia never tired of reminding us. Harriet had been killed in a mountaineering accident when I was just a year old, and she was not often spoken of at Buckshaw.

Was I jealous of Ophelia's memories? Did I resent them? I don't believe I did; it ran far deeper than that. In rather an odd way, I despised Ophelia's memories of our mother.

I looked up slowly from my work so that the round lenses of my spectacles would flash blank white semaphores of light at her. I knew that whenever I did this, Ophelia had the horrid impression that she was in the presence of some mad black-and-white German scientist in a film at the Gaumont.

"Beast!"

"Hag!" I retorted. But not until Ophelia had spun round on her heel—quite neatly, I thought—and stormed out the door.

Retribution was not long in coming, but then with Ophelia, it never was. Ophelia was not, as I was, a long-range planner who believed in letting the soup of revenge simmer to perfection.

Quite suddenly after dinner, with Father safely retired to his study to gloat over his collection of paper heads, Ophelia had too quietly put down the silver butter knife in which, like a budgerigar, she had been regarding her own reflection for the last quarter of an hour. Without preamble she said, "I'm not really your sister, you know . . . nor is Daphne. That's why we're so unlike you. I don't suppose it's ever even occurred to you that you're adopted."

I dropped my spoon with a clatter. "That's not true. I'm the spitting image of Harriet. Everybody says so."

"She picked you out at the Home for Unwed Mothers because of the striking resemblance," Ophelia said, making a distasteful face.

"How could there be a resemblance when she was an adult and I was a baby?" I was nothing if not quick on the uptake.

"Because you reminded her of her own baby pictures. Good Lord, she even dragged them along and held them up beside you for comparison."

I appealed to Daphne, whose nose was firmly stuck in a leather-bound copy of The Castle of Otranto. "That's not true, is it, Daffy?"

" 'Fraid so," Daphne said, idly turning an onionskin page. "Father always said it would come as a bit of a shock to you. He made both of us swear never to tell. Or at least until you were eleven. He made us take an oath."

"A green Gladstone bag," Ophelia said. "I saw it with my own eyes. I watched Mummy stuffing her own baby pictures into a green Gladstone bag to drag off to the home. Although I was only six at the time—almost seven—I'll never forget her white hands . . . her fingers on the brass clasp."

I leapt up from the table and fled the room in tears. I didn't actually think of the poison until next morning at breakfast.

As with all great schemes, it was a simple one.

Buckshaw had been the home of our family, the de Luces, since time out of mind. The present Georgian house had been built to replace an Elizabethan original burnt to the ground by villagers who suspected the de Luces of Orange sympathies. That we had been ardent Catholics for four hundred years, and remained so, meant nothing to the inflamed citizenry of Bishop's Lacey. "Old House," as it was called, had gone up in flames, and the new house which had replaced it was now well into its third century.

Two later de Luce ancestors, Antony and William de Luce, who had disagreed about the Crimean War, had spoiled the lines of the original structure. Each of them had subsequently added a wing, William the east wing and Antony the west.

Each became a recluse in his own dominion, and each had forbidden the other ever to set foot across the black line which they caused to be painted dead center from the vestibule in the front, across the foyer, and straight through to the butler's W.C. behind the back stairs. Their two yellow brick annexes, pustulantly Victorian, folded back like the pinioned wings of a boneyard angel which, to my eyes, gave the tall windows and shutters of Buckshaw's Georgian front the prim and surprised look of an old maid whose bun is too tight.

A later de Luce, Tarquin—or Tar, as he was called—in the wake of a sensational mental breakdown, made a shambles of what had promised to be a brilliant career in chemistry, and was sent down from Oxford in the summer of Queen Victoria's Silver Jubilee.

Tar's indulgent father, solicitous of the lad's uncertain health, had spared no expense in outf... 

 Apple iTunes

 
 
Alan Bradley has published many children’s stories as well as lifestyle and arts columns in Canadian newspapers. His adult stories have been broadcast on CBC Radio and published in various literary journals. He won the first Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children’s Literature. He lives in British Columbia. Delacorte Press will publish the next in Bradley’s delirious new series, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, in 2010. 


Also, Don't Miss BB's
Author News Page!
Look for advice on everything from how to get your book published to promoted. We are looking to help you get the word out about your book!

 
 
Check out our...

of the Month


Gifts