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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce Series #1)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce Series #1)

3.9 429
by Alan Bradley

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It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he


It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, 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.”

Editorial Reviews

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.)

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Library Journal

An 11-year-old solving a dastardly murder in the English countryside in 1950 wouldn't seem to be everyone's cup of tea. But Flavia Sabina de Luce is no ordinary child: she's already an accomplished chemist, smart enough to escape being imprisoned by her older sisters and to exact revenge, forthright and fearless to the point of being foolhardy, and relentless in defending those she loves. When she spies on her father arguing heatedly with a strange man late at night and the next morning finds that man buried in the cucumber patch, she sets out, riding her bicycle named Gladys, to make sense of it all. And when her father-a philatelist and widower for a decade who still mourns his wife-is arrested, Flavia's efforts are intensified. She delves into the backstory, involving the death of her father's beloved teacher years earlier and the loss of a rare stamp, and puts together the pieces almost too late. The stiff-upper-lip de Luce family is somewhat stereotypically English, but precocious Flavia is unique. Winner of the Debut Dagger Award, this is a fresh, engaging first novel with appeal for cozy lovers and well beyond. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ1/09.]
—Michele Leber

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

Kirkus Reviews
A precocious 11-year-old chemist confesses to murder. Buckshaw, the de Luce ancestral home, is in a bit of an uproar. First the cook finds a dead snipe with a stamp jammed on its beak on the doorstep. Then young Flavia awakens in the dead of night to hear her taciturn father, who normally saves his passion for his stamp collection, arguing with someone. Creeping out to the cucumber patch below her window to see more, she finds a man who breathes out the word "Vale," then expires. When Inspector Hewitt arrests her father, Flavia decides that her confession will save him. Hewitt doesn't believe her, of course, and she is forced to solve the crime between making trips to her attic sanctum, poisoning her sister Ophelia's lipstick and ignoring her sister Daphne, who always has her nose in a book. The one person she trusts is the family factotum, Dogger the gardener, a shell-shocked war comrade of her father the Colonel. Her snooping leads her to an ancient episode involving her father, the corpse and another former alumnus of Greyminster who has few qualms about killing her. Brilliant, irresistible and incorrigible, Flavia has a long future ahead of her. Bradley's mystery debut is a standout chock full of the intellectual asides so beloved by Jonathan Gash readers. It might even send budding sleuths to chemistry classes. Agent: Denise Bukowski/The Bukowski Agency
From the Publisher
"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." 

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Flavia de Luce Series , #1
Product dimensions:
7.62(w) x 5.22(h) x 1.32(d)

Read an Excerpt

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."


"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.


"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 outfitting a laboratory on the top floor of Buckshaw's east wing: a laboratory replete with German glassware, German microscopes, a German spectroscope, brass chemical balances from Lucerne, and a complexly shaped mouth-blown German Geisler tube to which Tar could attach electrical coils to study the way in which various gases fluoresce.

On a desk by the windows was a Leitz microscope, whose brass still shone with the same warm luxury as it had the day it was brought by pony cart from the train at Buckshaw Halt. Its reflecting mirror could be angled to catch the first pale rays of the morning sun, while for cloudy days or for use after dark, it was equipped with a paraffin microscope lamp by Davidson & Co. of London.

There was even an articulated human skeleton on a wheeled stand, given to Tar when he was only twelve by the great naturalist Frank Buckland, whose father had eaten the mummified heart of King Louis XIV.

Three walls of this room were lined from floor to ceiling with glass-fronted cabinets, two of them filled row upon row with chemicals in glass apothecary jars, each labeled in the meticulous copperplate handwriting of Tar de Luce, who in the end had thwarted Fate and outlived them all. He died in 1928 at the age of sixty in the midst of his chemical kingdom, where he was found one morning by his housekeeper, one of his dead eyes still peering sightlessly through his beloved Leitz. It was rumored that he had been studying the first-order decomposition of nitrogen pentoxide. If that was true, it was the first recorded research into a reaction which was to lead eventually to the development of the A-bomb.

Uncle Tar's laboratory had been locked up and preserved in airless silence, down through the dusty years until what Father called my "strange talents" had begun to manifest themselves, and I had been able to claim it for my own.

I still shivered with joy whenever I thought of the rainy autumn day that Chemistry had fallen into my life.

I had been scaling the bookcases in the library, pretending I was a noted Alpinist, when my foot slipped and a heavy book was knocked to the floor. As I picked it up to straighten its creased pages, I saw that it was filled not just with words, but with dozens of drawings as well. In some of them, disembodied hands poured liquids into curiously made glass containers that looked as if they might have been musical instruments from another world.

The book's title was An Elementary Study of Chemistry, and within moments it had taught me that the word iodine comes from a word meaning "violet," and that the name bromine was derived from a Greek word meaning "a stench." These were the sorts of things I needed to know! I slipped the fat red volume under my sweater and took it upstairs, and it wasn't until later that I noticed the name H. de Luce written on the flyleaf. The book had belonged to Harriet.

Soon, I found myself poring over its pages in every spare moment. There were evenings when I could hardly wait for bedtime. Harriet's book had become my secret friend.

In it were detailed all the alkali metals: metals with fabulous names like lithium and rubidium; the alkaline earths such as strontium, barium, and radium. I cheered aloud when I read that a woman, Madame Curie, had discovered radium.

And then there were the poisonous gases: phosphine, arsine (a single bubble of which has been known to prove fatal), nitrogen peroxide, hydrogen sulfide . . . the lists went on and on. When I found that precise instructions were given for formulating these compounds, I was in seventh heaven.

Once I had taught myself to make sense of the chemical equations such as K4FeC6N6 + 2K = 6KCN + Fe (which describes what happens when the yellow prussiate of potash is heated with potassium to produce potassium cyanide), the universe was laid open before me: It was like having stumbled upon a recipe book that had once belonged to the witch in the wood.

What intrigued me more than anything was finding out the way in which everything, all of creation—all of it!—was held together by invisible chemical bonds, and I found a strange, inexplicable comfort in knowing that somewhere, even though we couldn't see it in our own world, there was real stability.


Meet the Author

Alan Bradley is the internationally bestselling author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. His first Flavia de Luce novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, the Dilys Winn Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Agatha Award, the Macavity Award, and the Barry Award, and was nominated for the Anthony Award. His other Flavia de Luce novels are The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, A Red Herring Without MustardI Am Half-Sick of ShadowsSpeaking from Among the Bones, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, andAs Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust.

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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce Series #1) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 428 reviews.
1louise1 More than 1 year ago
The narrator is an extremely intelligent 11 yr. old girl named Flavia in the 1950's England. She lives in an old English estate, Buckshaw, in an unusual, strange, dysfunctional family. Her brilliant mind and wisdom beyond her years drives her to solve local muders and does a better job than the authorities. Well worth your time... Other books I've really enjoyed were, EXPLOSION IN PARIS, FIREFLY LANE, THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN.
Agropina More than 1 year ago
This book was such an easy read. Every night I would read before bed, I would keep telling myself "just a few more pages". Flavia is the most extrordinary 11 year old ever created. Most of the time when I was reading this book I forgot that she was only a child. Bradley kept finding things to bring me back to think "holy crap, she is only 11". Things like her braces, her mode of transportation and her older sisters. Even though Flavia is so well developed, I don't hink that any of the others are at all under-developed. I think that they are developed useing Flavia as their vehicle, but developed well all the same. Once I finished this book I was thirsty for more, I wanted to know more about Flavia. When I found that Bradley has created a new Flavia book, I couldn't have been more excited. I have the new book pre-ordered, and being shipped on it's release date.
RheaT More than 1 year ago
Flavia de Luce is the little girl I would have liked to be. She's brainy, headstrong and a little bit wicked. She's an independent child growing up in a motherless, eccentric household lacking in discipline and regular hours. Being the youngest child she's shirked and overlooked and has to make her own entertainment. Flavia is adventurous and concocts poisonous brews in a remote chemistry lab in the ancestral manse and doesn't hestitate to dive right in investigating a murder that takes place in the kitchen garden. This book has it all, a quirky heroine, good storytelling and a deft author. I think it will appeal especially to teenage girls and women who will identify with, cheer for and accompany Flavia on her adventure.
debbook More than 1 year ago
f there is a thing I truly despise, it is being addressed as "dearie". When I write my magnum opus, A Treatise Upon All Poisons, and come to "Cyanide", I am going to put under "Uses" the phrase "Particularly efficacious in the cure of those who call one 'Dearie.' " - Flavia de Luce Flavia, eleven and the youngest of three sisters, discovers a body in the cucumber patch at her family's estate, Buckshaw in the town of Bishop's Lacey. Just before he dies he utter the word "Vale". Precocious and wise beyond her years, Flavia does not tell all to the police and is determined to solve the murder herself. That was the truth: I didn't know his name. But I did know, and knew it all too well, that the body in the garden-the body with the red hair, the body in the gray suit- was that of the man I'd spied through the sturdy keyhole. The man Father had- But I could hardly tell them that. my review: I LOVED this book. Flavia is a brilliant character. Living in the English countryside in 1950, she spends her time in her chemistry lab that belonged to her now deceased mother, chemistry being her true love, and finding ways to keep up with her older sisters Ophelia and Daphne. She also has a fascination with poisons. It is charming and delightful, fun and engaging. The novel is full of interesting and colorful characters. The writing is excellent and the plot; revenge, boyhood secrets, and rare stamps, kept me hooked throughout. Flavia was really the best part and I am glad to learn that Bradley has written another Flavia mystery, due in March of 2010. I highly recommend this book! my rating 5/5
MinnesotaReader More than 1 year ago
Alan Bradley has ingeniously written a witty, enthralling murder mystery starring precocious Flavia Sabina de Luce. An 11-year-old chemistry whiz, she loves experimenting in her fully equipped lab, especially concocting poisons to use in tormenting her older sisters! Living on an estate with her father and sisters in 1950's rural England, Flavia enjoys riding her bike "Gladys" in the village and countryside. One morning, she finds a dying stranger in their cucumber patch. When her father is arrested for the murder, she sets out to solve the murder, by delving into her father's mysterious years as a schoolboy. As I read, I found myself completely drawn into an engaging atmospheric mystery. Mr. Bradley is a talented storyteller. He has skillfully created an intriguing and captivating plot with a wonderful cast of compelling, well-developed characters. The story is cleverly written in first person using Flavia's unique voice. While experiencing how her mind worked, I truly enjoyed solving the mystery with her every step of the way. Also, Mr. Bradley has brilliantly intertwined very interesting chemistry trivia into the storyline. I really loved this entertaining book and I highly recommend it for everyone! I'm really looking forward to reading the second book in this series, "The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery". It's due out in March 2010.
Ztarina More than 1 year ago
I loved the entire novel, from beginning to end. Not often does a title so catch you eye that you pick up the book and then the writing gets you in a choke hold so you so can't put it down. The main character, Flavia de Luce, is a matter-of-fact, 11-year-old girl with a Machiavellian brain and the heart of poisoner. Absolutely witty and yet, very natural writing. Perhaps a bit pendantic for the character's age, but the setting in 1950s England can account for her erudition. There is a realness to the work and a quirky no-where-else-in time quality that sets the girl sleuth genre on its ear. This is not your mother's Nancy Drew. This precocious darling could make Sherlock Holmes blink in suprise and awe!
sandyswker More than 1 year ago
Even though this story is written in a child's voice, you find youself thinking that this child is very savy! Flavia de Luce is a very clever child and she is able to uncover secrets that have been left undiscovered for many many years. Sometimes, she does some things that are very childlike, but, for the most part, she is so cunning that she seems like a little Sherlock Holmes! She has incredible deductive reasoning and her knowledge of chemistry was much better than mine. Even though she is young, she gets around town in what I thought of as a motorized scooter. She is very mobile. Her sleuthing is not deminished by her age. She sometimes does show her childishness, and these times make the book all the more delightful! I laughed out loud when she put poison ivy in her sister's lipstick! This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to anyone, but especially mystery readers.
Kasia_S More than 1 year ago
I cant' believe this is the author's first work, in short it's really amazing, I mean a gloriously adorable kaleidoscope of words and textures and emotions, pure bliss to read! Set in 1950's England, the mystery has a rustic feel to it but is very easy to read and enjoy. It's not often that the protagonist is an eleven year old little girl, who's as feisty and cunning as it gets. Flava de Luce has a love affair with chemistry. Glass flasks and potions are more fun than hanging out and doing kid stuff so when a murder takes place in her very own garden she's not scared, instead she challenges the world to stop her from solving it, and most important from trying to find her sweet old dad guilty. Sprinkled with clues and obstacles the story is a must read for anyone who likes something a little different and it's delicious to curl up with on a cold and dreary night. Flavia compares chemistry to witchcraft, there's something very organic and cozy about the building elements of life and how they surround us in all forms. She is a wiz at tricking her sisters and playing games on them. What kid would melt her sister's lipstick and melt it back into shape using a .45 caliber slug mold with an interesting addition mixed in, one that would teach her sister respect for the quirky youngster. Even though their mom has passed away, her spirit lives on in all the precious things she left her name on all around the house. The tale is a mystery with some really special characterization and lot's of heart, I think the author has really left his mark on the world with this novel. The mystery wasn't the hardest thing to solve, I mean it wasn't as complex as an Agatha Christie one but still a fun to read, and Flavia's brave escapades were a joy to read. At one point in the story the author lets us know that Flavia started her love for chemistry with one book that fell on her head, well I had one of those books too as a kid, I was obsessed with it, I was never as good as her at it but I know what it feels like to be spellbound by a whole new philosophy and world of unknown wonders. - Kasia S.
jenameyers More than 1 year ago
more interesting than many of the people I run into in the grocery store. I enjoyed this book immensely and have recommended it to several people. The plot was fine but it was the writing style, the use of language, and Miss Flavia herself that made me fall in love with this book.
poosie More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! This delightful, clever and funny murder mystery, set in 1950, is narrated by a brilliant, resourceful 11-year-old protagonist named Flavia Sabina de Luce, who lives in an English country home and whose passions are chemistry, with an emphasis on poisons, and deduction. A lot of historical charm adds dimension to this wonderful, unique storyline!
Addi More than 1 year ago
A dead man is found in Flavia de Luce's yard and her dad is arrested for his murder. She tries to solve the mystery herself, but it gets more complicated at every turn.
gem22 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I read mystery novels almost exclusively and have found myself getting bored with the genre lately. This was a welcome change - a unique protagonist, an entertaining plot, and a great writing style. I even learned a little! A must read for mystery fans who want something fresh and light.
jimmiecocoabean More than 1 year ago
Just finished reading the book today, and it was great the whole way through. I absolutely could not put the book down. I took the day off from work just to finish it (sad, but true). I was just so caught up in the mystery of it all. Flavia is a wonderful heroine/protagonist. Being a bit of a nerd myself, I loved that she was so into chemistry, and just really had a great deal of knowledge, in general. Most of all, I enjoyed the relationship she had with her two older sisters,Daffy and Feely. Clearly, she was the runt of the family, and she used that to her advantage a lot in this story. All said, I recommend this book. It's fabulous :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful, escapist English mystery with a quirky and hilarious main character, Flavia, who has her own chemistry lab on the 3rd floor of their English manse. When a dead body is found in the cucumber garden, Flavia is determined to solve the crime, like a young Miss Marple. I loved it..down to it's green cover!
TheRealMystery More than 1 year ago
The Real Mystery? How a 70-year old man created such a believably compelling and insightful little girl and why it took him so long to introduce her to us! Flavia de Luce is a precocious eleven year old with an obsession for chemistry and a proclivity for poisons. When she discovers a dead man in their cucumber patch, she’s not scared at all. Deliciously morbid intrigue drives her to study the evidence in her fully-stocked chemistry lab at the family estate in the English countryside. In spite of two older sisters and a distant, philatelist father, Flavia uses some science, her bicycle named Gladys and a lot of logical reasoning to the aid of the police that so obviously need her expertise. It was a delightfully fresh new take on a tried and true theme. This book has a lot going on; it’s in a historical setting, the narrator is a little girl, and I’ve never learned so much about stamp-collecting. Flavia holds it all together beautifully as she fearlessly investigates the most exciting event in her young memory, uncovering clues and motives that will send chills down even the most mature spine. I’m eager to see how the young ingenue grows into a young lady in the coming books!
DSaff More than 1 year ago
"Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie, Who cares for all the crinkling of the pie?" pg. 419 Flavia is an eleven year old girl with a huge imagination, a gift for chemistry, and a love of "solving." She lives at Buckshaw with her father and two sisters (Ophelia - 17 y.o., and Daphne - 13 y.o.). After a dead bird is found by their door and a dead body in the garden, Flavia sets out to solve the crime. Did someone in her own house do this? If so, who? If not, who acted unnoticed around them? Flavia calls on all of her knowledge to puzzle out pieces to the puzzle. But, will she figure it out in time? Will she be found out? I really enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down. While it was hard to think of an eleven year old working through some of these scientific puzzles, it was also intriguing to step into her mind. It was fun to read about her process for extracting poisons from plants. The characters are fun, and the story drew me in. If you haven't read a fun mystery lately, this is the book for you! I hope it becomes a series so that I can follow her exploits!
PricelessReads More than 1 year ago
What a breath of fresh air! There are jewels on nearly every page of this delightful mystery. I'm always drawn to adult books written about children, and Flavia certainly did not disappoint. I was hooked from the first page, and am so glad that this is only the first book in the series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a fantastic book, depending largely on the charms of its protagonist (the titular 11 year old chemistry prodigy). It's well-written and clever, and while the mystery isn't terribly difficult to figure out, the writing and the characters keep you invested anyway.
KrisPA More than 1 year ago
I've been writing a lot of reviews lately and they have all been mostly negative. I'm so happy to say that this book is a great read. I really like Flavia, the 11 yr old protagonist. She is sassy and too smart for her own good. I love that she decides she is going to solve the crime herself (in fact, she solves two)and persists despite all the obstacles in her way. Along with her faithful steed Gladys, Flavia is tireless in her pursuit of the truth, even if it means climbing ontop of a roof or confronting the Bad Guy. This is an unusual mystery with an unusual detective. Long live Flavia.
Sandywick More than 1 year ago
Flavia de Luce is a confident, gifted 11 year old that dapples in chemistry, her specialty is poison. She is determined to solve a mystery (the dead man she found in the cucumbers) and manages to get herself into quite a few tight spots, a little like Nancy Drew would but with much more character. This is the first of the series and it was a fun read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The perfect murder mystery for someone who doesn't like creepy, sadistic murder mysteries. Flavia's quick wit and perspective on the world make this novel a winner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Both author Bradley and his main girl Flavia are whip smart, concocting stories that are wickedly entertaining. A must read.
hanro More than 1 year ago
Ok ... I love the terribly precocious and insurmountable Flavia: her fascination with science in general, and her extensive knowledge of chemistry especially poisons, her vengeful relationship with her sisters, her wistful longing for her mother, her protective attitude of her father and Dogger. It's a Brit detective story set in the countryside with a good dose of dark humor. Can't wait to read the rest of the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for young adult readers. The character is unique, funny and memorable. I give it high marks and well worth your time and effort, especially younger readers
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not finish it. Kept hoping the characters would devleop more but gave up about 1/2 way through. Don't understand what the attraction was.