'I am simply a 'book drunkard.' Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.' L.M. Montgomery

'There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books.' Irving Stone

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

As the novel opens, Flavia Sabina de Luce schemes revenge against her 2 older sisters, Ophelia (17) and Daphne (13) who have locked her inside a closet in Buckshaw, the family's country manor home located in the English village of Bishop's Lacey. Flavia may have braces and pigtails like a typical 11-year-old girl, but she is also a brilliant amateur chemist with a specialty in poisons and a fully equipped, personal laboratory on the top floor of her home. With her scientific notebook at-the-ready, she steals her oldest sister's lipstick, adds poison ivy extract, and then waits, eagerly anticipating changes in Ophelia's complexion. Flavia is especially jealous of her oldest sister because at 17, she is the only one of the 3 girls with memories of their mother, Harriet, a free spirit who disappeared on a mountaineering adventure in Tibet 10 years earlier and is presumed dead. Harriet's disappearance devastated their father, Colonel Haviland "Jacko" de Luce, a philatelist and former amateur illusionist who spends most of his time poring over his stamp collection. The family shares their home with loyal retainer Arthur Wellesley Dogger, who once saved Colonel de Luce's life during the war and now works as Buckshaw's gardener, suffering frequent bouts of memory loss and hallucinations due to post-traumatic stress disorder from his time as a prisoner of war.
Mysterious events begin to occur when Mrs. Mullet, Buckshaw's housekeeper and cook, discovers a dead jack snipe on the porch with a Penny Black stamp pierced through its beak. Then, Flavia and Dogger overhear a heated argument between Colonel de Luce and a red-headed stranger who shortly turns up dead in the family cucumber patch. When Colonel de Luce is arrested for the crime, Flavia takes to her bicycle, Gladys, and begins an investigation in the village of Bishop's Lacey, interviewing suspects, gathering clues, and compiling research at the library, always staying ahead of Inspector Hewitt and the police department. As she single-handedly solves the crime, she uncovers the truth behind a 20-year old apparent suicide at Colonel de Luce's alma mater, Greyminster. Both the suicide victim, housemaster and Latin scholar Grenville Twining, and the red-headed stranger in the cucumber patch, Horace "Bony" Bonepenny, uttered "Vale" as a last word. The trail connecting their deaths also includes political intrigue, rare Ulster Avenger stamps, sleight of hand, theft, blackmail, and murder.               ~source:wikepedia

I absolutely adored this book! Having seen this series all over blogdom I wasn't sure with the protagonist being a kid. But Bradley is a master at his characterization of this wonderful little girl! She is precocious, but never comes across as arrogant or miss smartypants. You fall in love with her. Wish you could be a little kid again and be best friends with her. I loved all the characters, especially Dogger.

I read or rather listened to the audio version on CD in my car. The narrator was Jayne Entwistle and she is Flavia! She does ever so slight voice inflections for different characters that are just enough to recognize the person speaking but not over the top so it ruins the reading. That is one of my pet peeves with audio books. Women readers trying to have a male voice when they read a male part. Ruins the whole thing for me. Anyway, I've decided to do the whole series on audio. It is so vivid and seems to come alive with this narrator. I've already got book two in my CD player. And I'm driving to my son's in Maryland for Christmas so there's 4 hrs each way uninterrupted reading! I better check out book 3 before I go!

There's a wonderful website for Flavia fans. Check it out and join the fan club maybe:0 There's a Flavia card game to download too. I can't wait until my Grandkids a just a little bit older and get them started on these books!

Mystery lovers you need to give this a go if you haven't already!
Peggy Ann


  1. Not sure why I've been avoiding this book for so long, but I'm heading over to audible to listen to an audio sample now…

  2. I absolutely love listening to these books! I told my husband I wanted him to change our last name to Entwistle - don't you just love that name?! She truly is Flavia and what a wonderful and perfect voice she has! I don't know if I could just read the books after listening. But I would hear her voice in my head so I guess that would be okay. There was one in the series that wasn't quite as good as the others, but the latest was maybe even better than all the previous. Bradley comes out with the new ones pretty quickly too. Love his and Charles Finch's mystery series.

    1. I've listened to the first Charles Finch mystery in the car while traveling, Julie and I really enjoyed it too and want to read the rest someday!

  3. Replies
    1. They would be fun books to read to a young class, Patty!

    2. Hmmm...they would lose interest in seconds...plus some of the murders...yikes!

  4. So pleased you enjoyed your first Flavia, I have just gobbled them all up. Wonderful.

  5. I've not heard of this one at all - it sounds great!

  6. I remember seeing this all the time when I worked at the bookstore. It's one of those books I saw so often that I stopped "seeing" it, if that makes sense. It was an unfortunate side effect of so much availability.

  7. I love this series too, Peggy Ann! I've read them all and am keenly waiting for the next. It never occurred to me to listen to the audio versions though I recently joined Audible.com and now have a nice collection of audios to listen to whenever I'm in the mood. I love listening to David Suchet as Poirot and of course, he does such an amazing job with the other voices as well. He is superb. But then I haven't had a dud - thank goodness - in any of the audios I've recently downloaded. I love listening to P.G. Wodehouse and the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters. So much fun. I'm also listening to non-fiction and liking it very much.

    At any rate, back to Flavia. Since I also enjoy listening to books I'm familiar with, I'm going to see if maybe I'll download one. Thanks for letting me know how much you enjoyed the audios. What a great time you'll have driving down to Maryland with Flavia. :)

  8. Peggy, I just finished the fourth book, which is set at Christmas. I enjoyed it very much. I agree, a great series.


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