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)

by Alan Bradley
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Overview

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

Winner of the CRIME WRITERS' ASSOCIATION DEBUT DAGGER AWARD and the AGATHA AND DILYS AWARD - "A wickedly clever story, a dead-true and original voice" - Laurie R. King

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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385343497
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/19/2010
Series: Flavia de Luce Series , #1
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 33,310
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 960L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

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.

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."

"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 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.

Reading Group Guide

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)?

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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.