I don’t often read mystery novels because I can’t seem to find one as surprising and truly mystifying as Agatha Christie’s classic And Then There Were None. But I had a hankering for a good murder mystery a few weeks ago, and then I stumbled across Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Although it didn’t quite live up to my favorite mystery novel of all time, I did really enjoy the intrigue, suspense, and quirky characters that this book offered.
I started reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie while relaxing in a beach chair at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. I only managed to read a couple of chapters before Todd finished bobbing in the wave pool, but I was already hooked. From the novel’s opening, 11-year-old Flavia de Luce wins readers hearts with her geeky love of chemistry and her analytic narrative. Events take a turn for the worse when a dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp in its beak. As if that weren’t enough, Flavia discovers a dead body in the cucumber patch, and her father gets accused of the crime.
But for the young sleuth, the murder is “the most interesting thing” that had happened in her whole life, and the novel follows along as she and her bicycle Gladys speed around the town searching for clues about the identity of the dead man, the long-buried story behind the postage stamp, and the true killer. As the novel progressed, I really enjoyed the strength of Flavia’s character; she walked a perfect line between acting like a detective and acting like any other young girl with two older siblings. Like any 11-year-old, it sometimes took her a little longer than expected to make certain connections that the reader had already deduced, but the wait made it more rewarding when she reached her conclusion. The slow reveal of the truth kept me reading with anticipation, and I felt disappointed when the novel had to end.
I was excited to learn, however, that The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first in a seven-book series of Flavia de Luce mysteries. (The seventh book is expected to be published in 2015.) A television series based on the books is also in the works for 2015, according to the author’s website. Though I have two knee-high stacks of books I haven’t yet read, I’m already planning to purchase the rest of the books in this series in hopes that they will be just as good. Even if you don’t usually read mystery novels, I’d definitely suggest giving this book a try.