vrijdag 25 januari 2013

Alan Bradley – The sweetness at the bottom of the pie

The first book in the Flavia de Luce Mystery series, published April 28, 2009.
Genre: historical mystery
Cover: not something I would normally pick up.

Sweetness at the bottom

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.”

I have read reviews about this series before, and they made me curious. An 11 year old English girl with a love for chemistry and a gift for sleuthing? I wanted to read it, even though the covers really do nothing for me, quite the contrary. So when I was browsing my ebooks late last night, I decided to open the book and read a few pages before turning in. Even though the book is kind of strange, I was captivated by Flavia, and did not want to stop reading. Hooray for a week off, so I could indulge myself. I finished the book at 3 a.m.

This book takes place in the 1950’s. Flavia lives with her absentminded father, her two older sisters, a cook and a live in jack of all trades, Dogger, a man with PTSD from the war, currently the gardener, in a big old mansion in the English countryside. Her father spends his days with his stamp collection, and mourning his wife. Her sister Ophelia spends all her time reading whatever she can get her hands on, and her sister Daphne is just a pain in Flavia’s behind.
Flavia’s life changed when she found an old chemistry book that belonged to one of her forebearers, and her father gave her access to the old chemistry lab in the house, that still has a very unique collection of good appliances and beakers and stuff, all in prime condition. Flavia is in heaven. She is especially interested in poison’s and kind of an expert about it all. Totally fascinated with it.

Then one day, their cook/housekeeper finds a dead bird on their doorstep, with a stamp on its beak, and her father totally overreacts about it. That same night, Flavia is wakened by harsh voices coming from her father’s study, and when she sneaks downstairs, she sees him arguing with a stranger. As it is summer, and dawn is early, she cannot sleep any longer, and creeps downstairs to the garden. Where she stumbles on this stranger while he is breathing his last breath. And there is something strange about the smell of that last breath, but Flavia doesn’t directly recognize it. Flavia is fascinated by this, to see a man die. After that, she fetches Dogger, their gardener, to help her deal with this. There is no choice but to call the police. After all, the man has been murdered.

Of course she does not tell them that this man has been arguing with her father last night, not wanting to incriminate him. But when the police tell her to just fetch them some tea, and not come back to the garden, while she is so very interested in their investigation, she is peeved. She is the one who found the body afteral! And so she decides to do a little investigating on her own. And on, I am not going to spoil anything about the story itself. But yes, pie is important in this story.

I enjoyed Flavia very much, I loved how she got her revenge on her older sister by spiking her lipstick with an extract of poison ivy. Those older sisters really shut her out of their lives, teasing her unmercifully. But she does get them back. She is very resourceful, and independent, and figures out a decades old murder before the police. And it sure is a doozy. The story was absolutely captivating, the characters real, and the descriptions of everything, like I was walking there myself.
When Flavia’s father told her what happened when he was at school, I felt like watching a movie, as I saw it all happening. I will for sure read more books in this series. There was some suspense of course, when the bad guy kidnapped Flavia. I especially loved the ending of the book. And the police inspector really was impressed with Flavia’s laboratory.
This is certainly not like my usual cozy mysteries, but I am impressed with it, and really do recommend it.

8 stars.

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© 2013 Reviews by Aurian

8 opmerkingen:

  1. This does sound like an interesting cozy mystery. Not typical but still pretty good :)

  2. Oh not typical, but you recommend it? Plus, I do like the sound of the way it was written. Hm... will have to add this one to the wishlist.

    1. No animals as secondary characters in this one Melissa, just a dead bird.

  3. Not sure cos of the kid...still it does sound good

    1. I thought I got this recommendation from your blog Blodeuedd?

  4. I didn't know this one and I confess it's been a long time since I read a book like that, but it's alwyas interesting to read something during this period.

    1. Historical, but not too old history. I do enjoy that as well sometimes Melliane.