Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

A quirky title for a quirky book! After reading it, I still have no idea what it means. It doesn't really have a lot to do with the story, except for a quote that gets brought up a few times, 'Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie, who cares for the crinkling of the pie?'. I looked it up and found out that it means however nice something's outward appearance is (the 'crinkling', or decoration), it's what's on the inside that counts (the 'sweetness at the bottom' ie the filling). Anyway. Food for thought. (No pun intended).

This book is a mystery, one of the few classic who-done-it mysteries there are for teens that I've seen. After a dead bird with a postage stamp stuck on its beak appears at the doorstep, murder takes place in the garden of the De Luce house. Flavia, an eleven year old girl who's obsessed with chemistry, is the first one to see the dying man. Now I know your hackles just went up when I said 'eleven year old' and 'chemistry', but don't worry. Keep reading, I'll get to that later (promise!). Her father is the most obvious suspect, so he is arrested. However, Flavia is convinced of his innocence- but she has to prove it to Inspector Hewitt. So off she goes sleuthing around town, picking up clues of her father's past. She uses her extensive knowledge of lockpicking, chemistry, and charming people to achieve these ends. Mixed in with all this is her constant battle with her two older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, cheeky descriptions of life around her, and obscure facts about chemists.

The fact that she was an eleven year old didn't bother me so much. She was sassy enough to keep me thoroughly entertained, though sometimes I found her blathering commentary a little too long. Similarly, her stories about the chemists were interesting at first, but after a while I started to get an urge to shake her by the shoulders and yell 'get on with it, for crying out loud!'. The book is quite slow paced, but I guess most mysteries are, since they can't just reveal the facts that are important. Still, I found this quite a roundabout read, and it was easy for me to put down. I'd say it would make for an excellent rainy-day read, when you have nothing to do but read snuggled on your couch. Not terribly exciting or intense, it's a pleasant, meandering read. I've heard many people say that his portayal of the times is spot on, and while I don't really appreciate historical fiction, I did notice a lot of detailed desctiption that I'm sure would delight readers who do enjoy historical fiction.The character is cute and orignial, if a little rambly here and there.

All in all, it wasn't my favourite book, since I like more fast-paced stories.  But I liked reading it to get to meet Flavia, who is one of the most lovable characters I've read about.

If you loved this book, you'll like:

Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock
Something Wicked by Alan Gratz
Something Rotten by Alan Gratz

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