7 March 2011

Review: THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE, Alan Bradley

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 480 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0752883216
  • Publisher: Orion (April 30, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services 
  • Source: I bought it.
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. 

My take:

I'm not entirely sure of the 11 year old precocious heroine/detective, Flavia de Luca. There are times when she seems much older than 11! There are an incredible number of reviews on Amazon, and those who generally didn't like the novel, cited Flavia's character as the cause.

And don't believe those who say they found it a quick read! Well, it wasn't for me anyway.

But what hooked me was the language. Alan Bradley has a delightful turn of phrase. Flavia's narrative is  littered with classical illusions as well as Flavia's own interest in all things chemical.
    The panel on the right portrayed Jesus emerging from his tomb, as Mary Magdalene, in a red dress (also iron, or perhaps grated particles of gold), holds out to him a purple garment (manganese dioxide) and a loaf of yellow bread (silver chloride). I knew that these salts had been mixed with sand and the ashes of a salt-marsh reed called glasswort, fired in a furnace hot enough to have given even Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego second thoughts,
...........
    I had a quick look round at my surroundings. I was in a dismal little room with sticks of furniture so shabby that they might have been bought directly off the tailgate of a peddler’s cart, their legs chipped and dented as if they had suffered a century of kicks in the shin from government-regulation boots. In a vain attempt to cheer things up, a tiny wooden cupboard had been painted apple green, but the sink was a rust-stained relic that might have been on loan from Wormwood Scrubs. Cracked cups and crazed saucers stood sadly cheek by jowl on a draining board, and I noticed for the first time that the mullions of the window were, in fact, iron bars only half-heartedly disguised. The whole place had an odd, sharp odour I had noticed when I first came in: it smelled as if a jar of gentleman’s relish, forgotten years ago at the back of a drawer, had gone off.
The novel is set in 1950, but it often felt almost Edwardian or even Dickensian.
So if you are looking for a cozy that is a little bit different, with a sleuth who is certainly different, then this may be just the ticket. Make sure you have time to savour the careful prose though. And listen carefully - you may hear me chortling!

My rating: 4.8

In 2007 Alan Bradley won the CWA Debut Dagger for THE SWEETNESS.. at the age of 70 years.

Other reviews to check:
  • DJsKrimiblog: my one-word judgement: wonderful!
  • Material Witness: On the face of it, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, the debut novel of Canadian writer Alan Bradley, could hardly have been less promising.
  • Miss Lemon's Mysteries: highly enjoyable mystery with a gratifyingly original heroine.
  • Not Now ... I'm Reading: I haven't read many mysteries...but this one has to be my hands-down favourite.
I'm counting  THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE in the Cruisin' thru Cosies Reading Challenge, the Canadian Book Challenge 2010-2011, and e-book challenge

    6 comments:

    skiourophile said...

    Like you I loved the writing - rich and quirky. I'm about to start the second one and have huge expectations (oh dear!).

    Dorte H said...

    Wonderful book. I am glad you also liked it.

    He may not get Flavia´s age absolutely right, but when you have had two precocious daughters in the house it is much easier to buy the story. And NOTHING annoys these highly intelligent girls more than being treated as if they are stupid, little babies :D

    Margot Kinberg said...

    Kerrie - Oh, I'm so glad you liked this book :-). I have to admit I loved it. And the writing style is terrific! Flavia is precocious and unusual and you're right, she does seem older than eleven. But that wasn't as hard for me to accept as it was for some.

    bermudaonion said...

    Flavia was what I liked most about this book. Sure, she was old for her age, but that was because she was left to her own devices so much.

    TogetherForGood♥ Angie said...

    Hi! I also enjoyed The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I thought maybe you'd like to read my review of it:

    http://boundtogetherforgood.blogspot.com/2011/03/sweetness-at-bottom-of-pie-flavia-de.html

    Many thanks,

    Angie

    Kerrie said...

    Angie, I've added your review to my post. Thanks for drawing my attention to it.

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