Flavia de Luce is eleven years old and a science wizard. She lives in the ďbig houseĒ outside Bishopís Lacey, a small English village. Within the corridors of her old, rambling house where she lives with her father and two sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, sits her chemistry lab, her place of solace. The main use of her lab is to make the lives of her older sisters miserable - until a dead bird is left on their doorstep. While Flavia tries to make sense of this mystery, something even bigger happens: Flavia finds the dead body of a red-headed stranger in the garden. Secretly delighted by this turn of events (itís the most exciting thing that has ever happened to her), Flavia begins to inquire into the manís death, trying to discover who he was and why he was in their garden.
Flavia is an interesting, complicated character. Some have said sheís unbelievably knowledgeable and resourceful for her age. While those arguments are understandable, upon my reading, it made sense. Flavia has been shut up in an old house for most of her life, without any friends her age. Though she can leave for town whenever she wants to, she usually chooses to stay at home with her books and chemistry lab. As a result, Flaviaís mind works like an adultís. While unusually precocious, she doesnít know what it is to act like a child because sheís never really been around any. With that in mind, itís much easier to accept her intelligence and skills of deduction without having to make too far of a leap. Still, if you canít suspend that disbelief and accept Flavia as she is, this book will not be enjoyable.
The mystery within The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is intriguing and well-crafted. While the story moves slowly at the beginning, it definitely picks up its pace as Flavia deduces more and more. Itís not a huge puzzle, though, making it easy to guess the culprit before Flavia figures it out. Despite this fact, itís a fun mystery, made all the more entertaining by the wacky characters that Flavia encounters.
Alan Bradley already has a sequel to his hit debut novel out, The Weed That Strings the Hangmanís Bag. Itís good to know that the reader can revisit Flavia and the town of Bishopís Lacey; they are too large for just one book. The characters really make the first book in this series worth reading. However, if you canít accept them for what they are, this novel is likely not for you.