Flavia de Luce has spent much of the first 11 years of her life plaguing her sisters and learning everything she can about chemistry in the old lab of her ancestral home. Her biggest challenges involve pranking her sisters, trying to capture her father’s attention, and avoiding the housekeeper’s less-than-stellar custard pies.
Until now. It’s strange enough when a dead bird appears in the kitchen with an old postage stamp impaled on its beak; but when Flavia stumbles across a dead man in the cucumber patch, all hell breaks loose.
Flavia’s father is blamed for the murder — and Flavia’s efforts to prove otherwise seem to only turn up more evidence in favor of his guilt. Can she solve the mystery in time…before the killer strikes again?
This series was recently recommended to me by Gloria, who describes the main character as “a precocious girl in 1950s rural England with a penchant for chemistry and stumbling upon corpses.” She had me at corpses.
Who couldn’t love Flavia? She’s strong-willed, smart (bordering on brilliant, really), and clearly loves her family despite her refusal to behave in a way that indicates so. She’s an interesting mix of childish impetuousness and mature Sherlockian sleuthing (I’m still trying to decide whether or not I like that she doesn’t act like a typical 11-year-old). She’s a feminist and little bit snarky too, which makes me love her even more.
The plot is perfectly deceptive, occasionally conforming to the reader’s predictions before zinging off in new and unexpected directions. It’s not always easy to tell which clues matter and which don’t, what they mean, or even who is trustworthy and who isn’t.
The simple 1950s setting contrasts astonishingly with the seriousness of the crime and the violence of its perpetrator.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a great beginning to what I’m sure is a great series. Five novels have been released so far, with a sixth in the works. Books are published in the UK first, however, so don’t read them too fast unless you don’t mind waiting for them to hop the pond.