Friday, August 26, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie Review

Book talk: Watching a stranger take his dying breath in the cucumber patch in her backyard would scar most eleven year old girls for life.  But Flavia de Luce is not your average eleven year old girl.  Flavia isn't even frightened by the corpse in her backyard, after all the summer had been pretty boring.  A mystery is exactly what she needed.  Without wasting any time she uses her chemical knowledge to see if she can determine the cause of death and takes off on her bike to uncover clues in town.  But as resourceful as Flavia is, she can still get in over her head.  Before long it's her corpse that seems likely to be discovered among vegetables.

Rocks my socks: I'll admit to having a weakness for the precocious child archetype, and this is one of the best uses of it I've ever seen.  It does require a healthy suspension of disbelief, but if you can get beyond that this aspiring chemist with a love of poisons and hatred of being called 'dearie' will worm her way into your heart as surely as a large dose of arsenic will stop it.  The tongue-in-cheek humor had me laughing throughout and the details about stamp collecting were surprisingly interesting.  Overall it was a superb quick, summer read.

Rocks in my socks: I loved Flavia, but the other characters in the story were not particularly well developed or likable.  Even Flavia with her cruel sense of revenge and constant condescension isn't really likable so much as entertaining.  If Flavia is unrealistically intelligent the other characters are at times unrealistically dense and single-minded.

Every book its reader: The book is aimed at an adult audience and occasionally uses some complex vocabulary, but there's minimal violence for a murder mystery and nothing else in it that would make me hesitate giving it to an advanced teen reader.  I know it's not a book but I couldn't help thinking that fans of the cartoon Dexter's Laboratory would love Flavia as well as fans of mysteries.

Bonus Quotes:
If there is a thing I truly despise, it is being addressed as “dearie.”When I write my magnum opus, A Treatise Upon All Poisons, and come to “Cyanide,” I am going to put under “Uses” the phrase “Particularly efficacious in the cure of those who call one ‘Dearie.’”

Heaven must be a place where the library is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. No...eight days a week.

Whenever one comes face-to-face with a killer in a novel or in the cinema, his opening words are always dripping with menace, and often from Shakespeare.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Buy it at your local indie book store or check it out at your local library

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