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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by…

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

by Alan Bradley

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5,179522863 (3.85)1 / 816
English (520)  German (4)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Catalan (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (532)
Showing 1-25 of 520 (next | show all)
I read Sweetness as a group read, it definitely isn't a book that I would pick up on my own accord.

Flavia is an 11 year old chemist and poison master who becomes an amateur sleuth when a dead bird with a stamp skewered on it's beak shows up on their doorstep. I can't decide how much I believe her, 11 seems young to be an expert chemist and to be cycling back and forth between the estate she lives on and the nearby village(s). I have seen 11-year old geniuses on Jeopardy's Kids week and I suppose the villages of 1950s England would have been safer than the streets today (not with a murderer on the loose, though!), but I think giving her a year or two would have made her just a bit more plausible.

I did enjoy her narration, however. She was quirky, energetic, and very amusing. She somewhat reminded me of Dr. House (from the TV show) in the way that a seemingly unrelated something would give her the idea that would solve the mystery.

When it comes to mysteries (which I don't read often) I much prefer the high-paced mystery/thriller. Sweetness was definitely not high-paced, the clues were spread out between slower-paced scenes. I think there was a bit of unnecessary stuffing and the book could have been shortened just a tad to help with the pacing.

All in all, a fun young character and a decent read, but nothing overly special. ( )
  vnorthw | Apr 15, 2016 |
Jayne Entwistle
  jmail | Mar 21, 2016 |
Whoa lots of impressive vocabulary words for an 11-year-old narrator -- and I loved it! Flavia de Luce is a precocious investigator and budding chemist who puts me to shame with her self-assuredness and tenacity. I liked her a lot, even though I didn't feel an immediate kinship with her (for instance, like I did with Anne of Green Gables). Still, she's a spunky little heroine and it was impossible not to root for her. AND, try as I might, I didn't manage to figure out the mystery before she did -- she was a step ahead of me all the way! ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
Flavia de Luce is an eleven year old who spends her days rattling about her big old house, tormenting her older sisters, and engaging in arcane chemical experiments. Then she discovers a dead body in the cucumber garden, and her boundless curiosity embroils her in a murder mystery decades in the making.

Flavia is a wonderfully unique character, precocious, brave, and alternately cruel and sweet in the way that young children are. The mystery itself is a little tangled: I'm not sure that all the attention to the custard pie and snipe pie were necessary, although I suppose it was meant as a red herring, and the whole deal with making Bonepenny a diabetic felt like one complication too many. On the other hand, I loved that Jacko's old resurrection magic trick helped explain Twinning's death, and I thought the way Flavia puzzled out the true meaning of the witnesses saying that Twinning looked like a saint right before he jumped was very clever indeed.

I loved the complicated, repressed, and strange de Luce family, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series for more of them. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Flavia de Luce is an 11 year old chemistry whiz who finds a dead body in the garden outside her home. She sets out on an adventure to solve the mystery before the police do. Her family lives in a huge ancestral home in a small British village. They are really incidental to the story in this book, but they allow her the freedom for her curious mind to search and find answers. I enjoyed this book, but am not sure whether I'll read any more in the series. ( )
  MelAnnC | Feb 28, 2016 |
Flavia de Luce is unlike any other “detective” in literature; she’s a bit like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew. In 1950 Britain, a precocious, 11-year-old girl, Flavia, lives with her sisters and her father on the family estate, Buckshaw. When she finds a body in the cucumber patch just outside her window, she feels she must get involved in solving the crime, and in saving her father from a murder charge!

What I like about her is her intelligence and her unstoppable curiosity. I’ve heard the criticism that she’s far too precocious, but I don’t agree. Children … especially in those years just before the teen years … can be singularly focused on what interests them. Still, they are usually ignored by adults, though perhaps indulged when they ask a particularly intelligent question. Flavia uses this to her advantage. She roams freely around the village, collecting “clues” and “evidence,” and asking innocuous questions that people easily answer.

I do agree that there are some problems with the mystery. Flavia really can’t solve it alone, and there’s a lot of background detail that bogs down the story line (a long dissertation on stamps, for example). But I found it a really interesting premise and I fell in love with Flavia. I’m definitely willing to read another.

Jayne Entwistle is spot-on perfect in performing the audio book. She brings Flavia to life without making her sound irritating or too mature. We get the sense of enthusiasm and excitement that a child (and many adults) would feel in solving the mystery. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 19, 2016 |
I listened to the book on CD, and really enjoyed the reader, Jayne Entwistle. I wasn't sure what I thought about the book at first, but found myself really enjoying it. It's a clear sign when I bother to unload the CDs from my car so I can continue listening in the house while I'm doing chores.
Love the main character's outlook in this book. ( )
  KylaS | Feb 18, 2016 |
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that this book was available at my library translated to Swedish. I really don't have time for library books, but sometimes I have to make an exception.

Flavia de Luce is a wonderful 11-year old girl with a passion for chemistry (nothing we really share, but I love that she loves it) and in this book she has to clear her father from a murder charge. But what have stamps to do with the murder?

I admit I had some trouble getting into the story, but I think it was because I only read a little of the book every day, I much prefer to just devour a book and not just take a chapter or two every day. So yesterday I just thought "what the heck let's finish this off" and then everything with the book felt a lot better.

This is a great book; I recommended this book to anyone that likes a good mystery book.

When I think about; Flavia could actually be the child of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell (See Laurie R. King). She loves chemistry and is an amateur detective...

Also, I love the names of the sisters, Flavia, Daphne and Ophelia. It's just splendid! ( )
  | Feb 9, 2016 | edit |
I've discovered a fantastic new mystery series, thanks to my husband's recommendation. Alan Bradley has created a true treasure in Flavia de Luce, an eleven-year-old girl with a penchant for chemistry and an interest in investigating. She is the youngest daughter in the Buckshaw family, and lives in their rambling and disintegrating family manor with her father and older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne. The story opens with Flavia plotting revenge against her sisters for locking her in a closet. This alone does not prompt her intense ire, which arises from their constant teasing and torment. Flavia believes that her sisters blame her for the disappearance and presumed death of their mother, Harriet. It happened when Flavia was only a baby, and has left an indelible mark on the family, especially on their father, who has retreated into his world of stamps and left the house and its finance to stagger along. Despite the sadness of this loss, their family goes on in much the normal way, in part because a lot of time has passed since the catastrophe, and in part because they are a family that is not comfortable expressing their deep emotions. (While Flavia's sisters are mean, it seems no more than the rivalry found among most siblings.) The family home is rounded out with Mrs. Mullet, their occasional cook and housekeeper, and Dogger, a man who performs odd jobs around the house. Arthur Dogger served with Flavia's father in the war, and had even saved his life. Dogger suffers from sever post traumatic shock, and Flavia's father took him in. Dogger's attacks are never dangerous, and in his lucid moments he is an intelligent and reliable man. Dogger and Flavia have an understanding between them, a relationship that falls somewhere between parental and partnership.

This premise is intriguing enough for a novel - unusual family with dark secrets, a quaint British town, a plucky girl that is enchanted with chemistry. And then a murder happens! Honestly, I am only gleeful about that type of incident in the confines of a mystery story. The victim is discovered in the de Luce garden, and it is soon unveiled that the man was a school friend of Flavia's father. Flavia discovered Horace Bonepenny in her cucumber patch, and was the only one present to hear his whispered last word, "Vale". Riding around on her trusty bike, Gladys, Flavia starts detecting. She is a brilliant girl, and knows when to play the innocent child, who to ply for town gossip, and where suspicious strangers are most likely to be found in Bishop's Lacey. She knows how to break into the media archives in the back of the old library (stored in an old mechanics shop converted to the purpose0, and she has friends who work at the local inn. Inspector Hewitt suspects Flavia knows more than she is telling, and he warns her to keep out of it, but she just tries to be all the more discreet. When the police arrest her father for the murder, nothing will stop Flavia from finding the truth and clearing her father's name.

What a delightful new mystery series this is, with a child detective that has none of the cloying and overly innocent personality of earlier generations of young sleuths (such as Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden, who I also love, while recognizing their limitations as characters) but is an intelligent force to be reckoned with. Bradley manages to portray her as a child - she is still quite naive in some areas, particularly when it comes to physical attraction and romance - but a precocious one who has the knowledge and spirit requisite to solving crimes. With her extensive knowledge of chemistry and poisons, her tendency to revenge herself on others in devious and frightening ways, and her complicated relationship with her family, Flavia is a fascinating character. I could read scores of books about this delightfully terrifying girl. The mystery is also entertaining, a bit like a cozy mystery with its manor house backdrop and the accumulation of suspects and clues by an amateur investigator. It delves into her father's past, helping to round out the reserved and taciturn man who is obsessed with his stamps, and makes him much more likable. Dogger is an absolute delight, another character who is original, flawed, and intriguing. His relationship with Flavia is endearing, and he comes off as quite the hero. I look forward to learning more about all of these characters, even the romantic Ophelia and bookish Daphne, in future Bradley mysteries to come. ( )
  nmhale | Feb 8, 2016 |
What fun! A good, fun mystery with some laugh-out-loud moments and an utterly delightful geeky protagonist. I'll definitely read more in this series! ( )
  Gwendydd | Feb 7, 2016 |
Last Book for 2015

I actually found that I liked the second book much better than this one, so if you were slightly put off SWEETNESS, do go to the library and check out #2. ( )
  PamFamilyLibrary | Feb 7, 2016 |

Chapter 1 is where we learn that/get:

a. Ophelia is the only one of the de Luce sisters to remember their mother, Harriet.

b. Harriet is said to have died in a mountaineering accident when Flavia was a year old.

c. Ophelia's pearls belonged to Harriet. (She's the only sister to refer to her as 'Mummy'.

d. Why Buckshaw is a Georgian house instead of an Elizabethan one.

e. Why Antony added the west and William de Luce added the east wings.

f. A description of Tar de Luce's chemistry lab on the top floor of the east wing.

g. How Flavia got her love of chemistry

h. Flavia mentioning fish scales making up lipstick [apparently the shimmering ones, anyway].

i. All the de Luce sisters have spectacles, but Ophelia won't wear hers and Flavia's are little more than window glass.

Chapter 2 is where we learn that/get:

a. A description of Flavia's bedroom, which is in the east wing.

b. A description of Dogger's prisoner of war experiences during World War II (well, Mrs. Mullet's whispered description of them).

c. Flavia possesses Harriet's acute sense of hearing

d. The British name for what we call 'Daylight Savings Time' is 'Summer Time'.

e. That the de Luces all hate Mrs. Mullet's custard pies and what excuses they make for asking her to take them to her husband.

Chapter 3 is where we learn that/get:

a. The phone number for the police is Bishop's Lacey two two one (spoken, not dialed). This is where Flavia thinks of Sherlock Holmes and a coincidence.

b. A description of Inspector Hewitt.

c. Flavia gives us some of the antiquated names in Tar de Luce's copy of Elements of Chemistry by Antoine Lavoisier. [King's yellow is now called arsenic trisulfide. I wonder if the old name inspired the title of Robert W. Chambers' The King in Yellow.]

d. You may search for the Rank Films gongman on the internet to see what the de Luce dinner gong looks like.

e. A description of Dr. Darby

In chapter four Flavia tells us about the Sal Volatile and another form of smelling salts.

Chapter 5 is where we learn that/get:

a. a brief history and description of the Bishop's Lacey Free Library.

b. [Chlorosis is a real affliction in humans as well as plants -- a young woman who doesn't get enough iron and protein in her diet can turn green. The May 22, 1987 issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), v.257, issue 20, pp.2799-800, contains 'Whatever Became of Chlorosis' by William H. Crosby, MD. As I recall, the article suggested the famous painting on the issue's cover might show a girl suffering from chlorosis because of the greenish tint of her skin.]

c. That there are horror tales about retired librarian Miss Mountjoy and what the villagers do in reaction.

d. The text of a newspaper article Flavia was researching.

Chapter 6 is where we learn that/get:

a. Twining's Lingua Latina , a standard school text used around the world, was published when Mr. Twining was only 24.

b. The story of Dr. Kissing, the headmaster, and his prized stamp.

c. How Flavia rescued her mother's bicycle and rechristened it 'Gladys'. [See the article on the history of the bicycle at Wikipedia for why a a late 19th century woman named her bike 'Gladys'.]

d. How the gates at Buckshaw were acquired

e. [The blessing Flavia mentally calls on for Dogger is the most of verses 24 & 25 of chapter 6 in the Biblical Book of Numbers.]

f. Alf Mullet's second sister's name is Margaret and she goes to Scotland on her holidays.

Chapter 7 is where we learn that/get:

a. Daphne wants to be a novelist and keeps a notebook of phrases she's read.

b. A description of one of the rooms at Thirteen Drakes Inn.

c. A mention of the famous Dr. Crippen murder case (although DNA evidence discovered in 2007 suggests he was innocent).

Chapter 9 is where we learn that/get:

a. Ophelia plays the piano beautifully

b. Flavia's favorite musical composition is the Toccata by Pietro Domenico Paradisi from his Sonata in A Major

c. a description of Mrs. Bewdley's ornamental garden

d. Flavia singing some lines that apparently come from T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land.

e. a bit of description of the greenhouse at Buckshaw

f. Colonel de Luce's attitude toward the telephone.

Chapter 10 is where we learn that/get:

a. The de Luces attend St. Tancred in Bishop's Lacey and some anecdotes about their Sundays there. There is also a description of the church's stained glass windows.

b. Flavia has a theory about what she considers to be obvious alchemical references in the Book of Revelation.

c. Flavia uses 'nauseous' for 'nauseating,' not something I would expect in 1950.
She also tells us that she and her family 'serviced' the entire congregation, although that may not have implied having sex (usually for money) in England at that time.

d. a description of Buckshaw's lake, island, and folly, designed by Capability Brown.

e. a mention of a family tradition about the Earl of Sandwich who invented the sandwich

f. the river loops around St. Tancred

Chapter 11 is where we learn that/get:

a. There's a wheeled ladder in the library at Buckshaw.

b. which book is the pride of Flavia's chemical library

c. Horehound is Flavia's secret passion (she bought horehound sticks at Miss Cool's)

d. Miss Cool had a collie named Geordie who was run over by a speeding motorist

e. Miss Mountjoy's house is called Willow Villa.

f. [The folk song, 'The Seeds of Love' is available on the internet.]

Chapter 12 is where we learn that/get:

a. a description of Colonel de Luce's study & bedroom, as well as Harriet's bedroom

b. Flavia shares her father's lecture on the history of the penny post [which gave me a new appreciation for the first stamp in Terry Pratchett's Going Postal].

Chapter 13 is where we learn that/get:

a. The rumors about Maximilian Brock and why his nickname is 'The Village Pump'.

b. a description of the police station at Hinley. ( )
  JalenV | Feb 5, 2016 |
An amusing and precocious heroine, an entertaining story. Wondering where they shelve it in the library, with the YA, the mysteries, or the YA for for adults, LOL. Will have to read more. ( )
  MaureenCean | Feb 2, 2016 |
Flavian is totally cool, love this series, can't wait to read the next one ( )
  crazeedi73 | Jan 30, 2016 |
Flavian is totally cool, love this series, can't wait to read the next one ( )
  crazeedi73 | Jan 30, 2016 |
Flavian is totally cool, love this series, can't wait to read the next one ( )
  crazeedi73 | Jan 30, 2016 |
Flavian is totally cool, love this series, can't wait to read the next one ( )
  crazeedi73 | Jan 30, 2016 |
Reminds me of Lemony Snickett. Suitable for YA readers. ( )
  Cricket856 | Jan 25, 2016 |
Reminds me of Lemony Snickett. Suitable for YA readers. ( )
  Cricket856 | Jan 25, 2016 |
Fun book. I will certainly read the rest in the series. ( )
  kmmsb459 | Jan 24, 2016 |
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley - Very Good

This has been on Mount TBR for a little while and I was starting to think I'd give it a miss. Then I noticed it was on the wishlist of a friend I haven't seen for ages but will meet at the weekend. That coupled with the continued non-arrival of my bookray moved this to the top of the pile. I'm so glad it did.

Lovely book. Our heroine is one Flavia Sabina de Luce. The sort of clever, young girl running wild that 1950s books are full of. When a stange man visits her father and is heard arguing in the study late at night....then found dying in the vegetable patch in the early hours. Flavia sets out to solve the murder and ensure her father is not accused.

She gets into all sorts of scrapes as she investigates and deduces. Old fashioned rip roaring fun but without the ouch moments that you get from novels actually written during the era. Another book that deserved all the plaudits and awards it won.

(nb There is some debate online as to whether this is YA fiction. I don't think it is written as such, but would certainly appeal to that age group too and would not be inappropriate)

Listed in the best books of the 21st Century
( )
  Cassandra2020 | Jan 24, 2016 |
Light reading, a little too light for my taste. ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
Light reading, a little too light for my taste. ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
Nice mystery. Loved the British tone to the writing. A bit predictable, but a good unlikely heroine.

Upon my re-read in 2013, am giving it an additional star to 4. Very cleverly written, easy to read, hilarious, and makes me glad it's a series!

Highly recommended. ( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
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