Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Flavia de Luce #1
Published by Delacorte Press; January 1, 2009
Paperback, 385 pages
Borrowed from library

Flavia de Luce 11 is an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. In the summer of 1950, a series of inexplicable events strikes her home, Buckshaw, a decaying English mansion. 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, 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 jailed for murder. He tells Flavia an astounding story of a schoolboy friendship turned ugly, a stolen priceless object, and a Latin teacher who flung himself to his death from the school tower thirty years before. Flavia ties tie two distant deaths together, examines new suspects, and follows the search to the King of England himself.

- Description from

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I enjoy mysteries a lot, and what could be better than an intelligent 11 year old in Britain acting as detective? At first sight, nothing but as soon as I delved into this book, it just I didn't feel a connection to Flavia or any of the characters, and the story wasn't particularly eventful. It was, simply put, a very bland story.

Flavia, to me, was very fake and had no real substance. She felt superficial and as the book went on, I didn't feel as though she had any real emotion. She was very solid and logical - all numbers and scientific facts. Another thing that bugged me was the sheer intelligence of this girl. Yes, I can accept that anybody capable of solving a mystery as complex as this is is supposed to be very smart, but with Flavia, it's hard to believe. She seems more like a very wise adult than an eleven year old. She's incredibly good with her words, she's quick on her feet, and is able to teach herself chemistry by the age of eleven. Uh, well, when I was eleven, I was still laughing at the amazing process in which a baby is born. The first person perspective did nothing to help Flavia's character. It just made it feel even more fake and superficial than it already was. In all, it just felt a bit hard to swallow.

The story itself is dull and tedious to read through. I absolutely wanted nothing less than to read through all the large paragraphs of detail upon detail upon detail. And furthermore, I found the setting completely lacking. The mystery aspect is reasonable - I can see how this crime might play out but it's dull. Oh my, is it dull! The book is simply page after page of tiring logic and who wants to read that? There's no wow factor and unlike a good mystery, the book failed to involve me and capture my attention. There was no WHODUNNIT because well, there were no whos that could have done it. Anyone with brains and who is willing to spend the five minutes to guess would have  surmised the culprit by the end. It's so obvious I'm surprised I didn't get it.

While I enjoyed the concept of The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie, I didn't find it well executed. The story is dull and Flavia is hard to relate to. I might pick up the next book to see if it gets any better but chances are, I'm going to skip the others.


  1. After hearing about this publication for the 1st time on the Book Report radio show's lineup for this week (I know - I'm seriously behind the times), I’ve read a few reviews online to see what the general public’s reaction to the book is. Honestly, yours is the most negative I’ve seen, but also gives more detail as to your "why" and with this added detail, I am far more likely to make an altogether different choice(pass), the kind of detail other’s should mention while recommending the book to all and sundry-who may be bored. Thanks for this feedback. I suspect it may also have saved my daughter from being given the book!
    I thought I should take this opportunity to suggest to others wanting to keep on top of book suggestions, author interviews and narrated clips to take a listen either to the radio show(Stations and schedules listed on site), or listen to the recorded show on their website(bookreportradio{dot}com). It has been a helpful tool for me as my life and available time has changed, and one other’s may benefit from too.

  2. Thank you for stopping by, Nicky! Book Report radio sounds interesting, maybe I'll check it out! :)