Back-of-the-box blurb: Debut Dagger Award winner Alan Bradley introduces eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. 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 beak. 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.
She Is Too Fond of Books’ thoughts:
“‘Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie,
Who cares for all the crinkling of the pie?’”
Flavia is a delight! The youngest of three daughters being raised by the widowed Colonel de Luce, Flavia is an active and curious 11-year-old. Rather that sit and read all day, like her sister Daphne, or preen and flirt with a boy from the village, like her sister Ophelia, Flavia spends much of her time exploring and observing – when she’s not conducting chemistry experiments, that is, such as injecting Ophelia’s lipstick with poison ivy, in an effort to test its transference properties.
One day Flavia’s ordinary/extraordinary life changes. This is the day the de Luce’s housekeeper finds a dead bird (with a postage stamp affixed to its beak) on the doorstep, and Flavia discovers a dying man in the family’s cucumber patch, arriving just in time to hear him utter “valet” before he expires.
After interrogation from the village constable, Colonel de Luce is taken into custody. But Flavia is sure her father is not guilty of murder, and sets about to prove it; her quest takes her into several literal and figurative “tight spots.”
This is not a typical cozy mystery – I found it to be more engaging, both because of Flavia’s precocious personality and the advantage her young age gave to the point of view in her first person narration. The setting in a 1950 English village, the rambling Buckshaw homestead, and a cast of quirky supporting characters add to the charm.
The audio is read by Jayne Entwistle, who also reads the audio edition of The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, the next Flavia de Luce mystery. I found the voices and pacing to be excellent, and really enjoyed listening to this as I did yard work earlier this spring. I rarely read a print edition of a book I’ve listened to on audio (Susan Jane Gilman’s Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven was one exception), but there were many literary references I’d like to revisit, so I plan to encourage my neighborhood book group to read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, so I have an excuse to purchase it I do plan to read the print edition of The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, and I think I’ll hear Entwistle’s inflection as I read.
To hear a bit of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, click the Play button (the right-facing triangle) below: