14 May 2009

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Flap Copy from ARC: "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 beack. Hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. Then someone steals a slice of Mrs. Mullet's unspeakable custard pie that had been cooling on the kitchen window. Flavia sums it up: '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 ...'

As the noose tightens, Flavia decides it is up to her - and her fully equipped Victorian laboratory - to piece together the clues and solve a murder."

Entertaining and quirky, this debut novel was well worth read. I was immediately drawn to the precocious 11-year-old heroine, with her love of chemistry, her passionate obsession with poisons and her beloved bicycle named Gladys. The book is filled with strange characters, Flavia's unsympathetic family among them - each encounter serves to further enhance the bizarre, almost surreal nature of Flavia's surroundings.

Bradley's mystery plot unfolds at a good pace, with enough twists and turns to keep Flavia guessing - though I had it figured out pretty quickly, my enjoyment of the book came from watching Flavia reach the same conclusion. Four stars, a highly recommended read!

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