Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Author: Alan Bradley
Series: A Flavia de Luce Novel, book 1
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2009

Recommendation: An entertaining mystery novel with a young detective.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Flavia de Luce is an 11 year old girl, who is the youngest of 3 sisters living in an old English estate with their Colonel father. Flavia's life gets a lot more exciting when she finds a dead man in her garden one early morning and her father is arrested for murder. Can she find out who the real killer is?

Reactions: I picked up this book based on Carl's glowing review. And it certainly sounded like I book I could very much enjoy. Overall, it turned out to be a pretty good read, but it didn't quite win me over the way I had hoped.

I think the main thing I disliked about the book is the 1st person narration. We see everything from Flavia's point of view and from the very beginning it's quite clear that she is a flawed narrator in the way she perceives the events. It's pretty clever to give us the story from her point of view, but I just found the narration somewhat frustrating. Some of the conclusions seem quite obvious to me for a long time before a lightbulb goes off in Flavia's head. And possibly that's quite realistic given her age, but I found myself fidgeting when she starts explaining what she just figured out and I already know it as the reader. Not to say that there weren't any surprises in the mystery, I didn't seem them all coming, but some things just went a bit slowly.

On the other hand, the supporting character set and their relationships with Flavia are very well done and very amusing. From her rivalry with her two sisters, to Inspector Hewitt investigating the case, to Dogger who gets "episodes" after the war, I thought the background characters came alive quite well and I enjoyed reading about them very much. Here's a small snippet from Inspector Hewitt talking to Flavia:
"I shall brook no frivolity. A man is dead and it is my duty to discover the why, the when, the how, and the who. And when I have done that, it is my further duty to explain it to the Crown. That means King George the Sixth, and King George the Sixth is not a frivolous man. Do I make myself clear?"
The language itself is pretty interesting in the book. Sometimes it distracted me from the story a bit, but mostly I enjoyed the descriptions. For example,
In the heyday of the motor showroom, it had been the garage where autos had their oil and tires changed, their axles lubricated, and other intimate underside adjustments seen to.
So all in all, it was a good read even though I didn't quite connect to the main character the way I expected to. There are more books coming out in the series and I'll certainly think about picking up another mystery by Alan Bradley.

1 comment:

  1. I am sorry you didn't connect with Flavia as strongly as I did. I enjoy the fact that she is a flawed narrator as it makes for some very interesting revelations, or partial revelations, in the next two books as the greater mystery of her life and her mother's loss unfolds. The next two books are great, but then again that is the opinion of someone who loved the first. :) I do like the fact that the "mystery" at the heart of the story isn't the one that Flavia is working to solve at the moment but is the greater mystery that affects the lives of her and her family and slowly but surely it seems like Bradley is unraveling that mystery. I certainly hope the series has a finite end to it and that he keeps taking the de Luce family in the direction he appears to be taking them.