Sunday, May 8, 2011

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

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) 
Author: Alan Bradley  
Year: 2009
Page: 374
Genre: Fiction - Murder / Mystery / Thriller / Suspense

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from

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.”

First Sentence:
It was as black in the closet as old blood.

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • I have read lots of good reviews about this book, but for some reasons it never really called out to me. However, Tea Time with Marce's review convinced me to give it a try! We may not always have the same taste in books (e.g. I really like the Hunger Games, and she doesn't) but I trust her honest reviews.
First thought:
  • How adorable is Flavia!
Cover Art:
  • It's okay, not something that'd attract me on the shelf. I found the international covers (see this link) and I think my favorite is the Russian cover, followed by the Germany one. My least favorite is the UK paperback version. How boring!!
  • For some reasons this title reminded me of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Maybe because they both had "pie" in the title?! This book has a slightly better title though - at least I can remember the full title (sometime).
  • It took a bit of getting used to the writing style. What happened in the first chapter confused me a little, but I am glad I read past it to finish the book!
  • The mystery plot was a little weak, compared to the other books in the same genre. I don't know if that's because the main protagonist is a child, so that the plot can't be too complicated?
  • Parts of the story was a little slow...
  • That's where the book really shone - Flavia was definitely a memorable characters! It reminded me a bit of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series - I thought the plot was just okay (I read the first bookonly, watched all 3 movies), but Lisbeth, like Flavia, is not your run of the mill characters.
  • Flavia also reminded me of myself a little - I liked science, I just wish I was good at it like Flavia was! And of course I liked the solving mystery part too, I remember enjoyed reading this genre even when I was a kid. Well, I think I treat my sisters a bit better than Flavia did with hers :)
  • All the other minor characters had their own personalities too.
  • It was okay. I don't remember much but I remember not hating it.
  • It was fun to read about a fun character!
What I Learned:
  • I need a good balance of good characters and good plot! I think that's why I like Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhythm's series so much - you get a sense of whom Lincoln is, and yet he has brilliant twists and turns. I like that he providers the more technical and scientific details of forensic science (some people find it boring, but I like to learn such stuff! I wanted to be a CSI, except I suck at chemistry and biology and well, biochemistry!) Another thing I like about this book is its chemistry reference - I like learning about such elements even though I don't remember any of it. I am a nerd who can't remember the nerdy details :)
  • I am glad I read this even though I don't quite know what to expect of it!
Read this Author again?
  • While I am not running out to borrow the rest of the series right away (due to its weaker plots), I think this is a series I'd turn to when I want a lighter read, or when I want something to get me out of reading funk - something familiar, something I'd enjoy (at least Flavia and her little quirks) while it's something I haven't read before and can be surprised. 
  • Have you read the rest of the series? What do you think? Is it worth going out to read now, instead of later "when I feel like it?"
Once I had taught myself to make sense of the chemical equations... 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. (p9-10)

Mediocrity, I discovered, was the great camouflage, the great protective coloring. (p180)

Silence is sometimes the most costly of commodities. (p219)

Overall Rating:
3.5 Stars.

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  1. Yaaaay you read it. I felt like you did, I gave it a 4 because Flavia was my favourite character of 2010.

    I also thought the title was similar to Guernsey, how funny. I actually ordered this for a blogger who chose it and processed to me instead of her address by mistake but in the end was happy I read it.

    I said when I am in the mood for some more Flavia I will definitely read the next but the writing did take a little to get used to.

    Glad to see your take on it.

  2. @Marce - I guess it probably was about a 3.75. Maybe I should change my rating scare so I can do 3.847? :) It does make me wonder if the writing style / plot improves since there are quite a few books in the series. I think Flavia definitely is up there being one of the favorite characters! Beats a lot of the YA protagonists lol.