Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

It’s that time of the month when I share my monthly book review!

I was looking back on previous book reviews & discovered a pattern… I’ve been falling a little bit behind since The Little Paris Bookshop– oops! Despite the fact that I would have loved for this review to be published at the end of May or even June 1st, at the latest. Unfortunately life does not always work out accordingly to our plans.

“The hook: Lemony Snicket meets Sherlock Holmes. Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce may be close in age to Nancy Drew, but she’s way too wicked to invite comparisons to that goody-two-shoes. Flavia’s flaw: The child has a genius for any kind of chemistry but poison is her “particular passion,” and she’s not above putting that knowledge to use in, say, a poison-ivy-laced lipstick that‘ll put a pucker in her sister s pout. The verdict: Campy and clever, Sweetness is a highly original entry in the crowded mystery genre.” -—Fort Worth Star-Telegram

For May I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. I must admit, I don’t know how I found this book. Knowing me I probably was skimming the shelves at Barnes & Noble years, upon years ago & bought this book solely on the cover. The cover is pretty cool & I can definitely be biased when it covers to book covers. I know the old saying goes, you should never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes I do!

Alan Bradley is a mystery writer who is most known for his Flavia de Luce series, which began with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I must admit, I didn’t realize this book was part of series until after I read it. I know have discovered that the Flavia de Luce series holds 9, maybe 10 books with more potentially on the way! Alan Bradley has received high acclaim, including: The Dilys Award, Macavity Awards for Best First Mystery Novel, & the CWA Debut Dagger.

Okay, enough of all that background lets dig into the novel!

The story is set in the English countryside during the 1950’s. The main character, Flavia de Luce is an eleven year old girl who narrates. Before I go any further I want to mention that I LOVE books written from different perspectives (a child, an animal, etc) Flavia is quite the character! She’s incredibly smart, loves chemistry, isn’t too fond of her two older sisters, never knew her mother who died young, & loves to get into trouble. After an unusual “gift” (a dead bird with a postage stamp stuck to its beak) is left on the doorsteps of the de Luce household one day, mysterious events begin to unfold leaving Flavia as the detective!

“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.” —OHbaby Magazine, New Zealand

This book has so much going for it–

cute & quirky characters & storylines, a bit of mystery, a bit of suspense, historical elements, and more!

In terms of characters: Flavia is quite the little girl & Bradley does a good job of describing her personality. Her father is a bit reclusive, but some development is given throughout the book. Unfortunately her older sisters are very one dimensional, if even that at all. I wish Bradley had put a little more effort into the sisters because I feel there was a lot her could work with. Dagger as well is a very interesting character whom I wanted to learn more about. I won’t go into all the various characters, but overall I felt like Bradley did a good job of setting up most of the characters (minus a few) however he fell a little short in the development & descriptions of the characters evenly.

Onto the storyline: I did enjoy the story a lot. I thought it was unique, held my interest, & kept me on my toes. However, there were moments when it felt like the story was dragging on or the plot was becoming a bit convoluted & unrealistic. I will say overall the story did not feel very realistic, nor did the main character that much. However, unlike other reviews I read on the internet, that didn’t bother me. I suppose I wasn’t expecting a super realistic story, it was more meant to be entertaining & a bit magical in a sense. This is a Sherlock Holmes-esque tale after-all, & while I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Sherlock there are many times when the plot, the character, etc. just is too much for my mind to wrap around, but that’s what I enjoy about it.

“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 is assured.” — Andrew Pyper, author of The Killing Circle

This is Bradley’s first novel & I think it was fantastic! While some areas could have used a little improvement overall I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a cute whodunnit– sometimes I stick away from murder mystery type novels because I am a total wuss when it comes to scary stuff. However, this book had just the right amount of mystery & suspense without being too much for me to handle when I’m reading late a night. Also, if you do enjoy this book, Bradley has a whole series now for you to indulge after finishing The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. For me, I’ll be visiting the library or bookstore soon to pick up a couple of the books in the series!

Cheers & stay chic!
-Taylor

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