Written by Alan Bradley
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
ISBN: 978-0-385-66582-7 (0-385-66582-2)
Pub Date: February 10, 2009
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Winner of the 2007 Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger
A delightfully dark English mystery, featuring precocious young sleuth Flavia de Luce and her eccentric family.
The summer of 1950 hasn’t offered up anything out of the ordinary for eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce: bicycle explorations around the village, keeping tabs on her neighbours, relentless battles with her older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, and brewing up poisonous concoctions while plotting revenge in their home’s abandoned Victorian chemistry lab, which Flavia has claimed for her own.
But then a series of mysterious events gets Flavia’s attention: A dead bird is found on the doormat, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. A mysterious late-night visitor argues with her aloof father, Colonel de Luce, behind closed doors. And in the early morning Flavia finds a red-headed stranger lying in the cucumber patch and watches him take his dying breath. For Flavia, the summer begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw: “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”
Did the stranger die of poisoning? There was a piece missing from Mrs. Mullet’s custard pie, and none of the de Luces would have dared to eat the awful thing. Or could he have been killed by the family’s loyal handyman, Dogger… or by the Colonel himself! At that moment, Flavia commits herself to solving the crime — even if it means keeping information from the village police, in order to protect her family. But then her father confesses to the crime, for the same reason, and it’s up to Flavia to free him of suspicion. Only she has the ingenuity to follow the clues that reveal the victim’s identity, and a conspiracy that reaches back into the de Luces’ murky past.
A thoroughly entertaining romp of a novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is inventive and quick-witted, with tongue-in-cheek humour that transcends the macabre seriousness of its subject.
WINNER 2009 - Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel
"Sure in its story, pace and voice, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie deliciously mixes all the ingredients of great storytelling.The kind of novel you can pass on to any reader knowing their pleasure is assured."
— Andrew Pyper, author of The Killing Circle
"A wickedly clever story, a dead true and original voice, and an English country house in the summer: Alexander McCall Smith meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Please, please, Mr. Bradley, tell me we'll be seeing Flavia again soon?"
— Laurie R. King, New York Times bestselling author of The Game
“One of the hottest reads of 2009.”
— The Times (U.K.)
“Alan Bradley brews a bubbly beaker of fun in his devilishly clever, wickedly amusing debut mystery, launching an eleven-year-old heroine with a passion for chemistry — and revenge! What a delightful, original book!”
— Carolyn Hart, Anthony and Agatha award-winning author of Death Walked In
“Alan Bradley’s marvelous book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, is a fantastic read, a winner. Flavia walks right off the page and follows me through my day. I can hardly wait for the next book. Bravo.”
— Louise Penny, acclaimed author of Still Life
Praise from the CWA Dagger Award judges:
“The most original of the bunch, I think, with a deliciously deceptive opening which really sets the tone of macabre fun. Flavia is a wonderful creation, along with the rest of her eccentric family, and makes for a highly engaging sleuth. Think the Mitfords, as imagined by Dorothy L Sayers. The plot, with its intriguing philatelic elements, is nicely ingenious and delivers a very good end, with a fun twist. Would make very good Sunday night telly, I think.”
“I adored this! Our heroine is refreshingly youthful, funny and sharp and the author creates such a strong sense of time and place. Flavia’s eccentric family are delightful and I love seeing them interact within their crazy home. There are also interesting depths to the plot — the stamp collecting, the chemistry experiments, and the acknowledgement of past events and how they have affected these characters. The author’s tone is very tongue-in-cheek and offers something quite different in this genre, and the story is cleverly structured and beautifully written. This doesn’t read like a first novel. Assuming the mystery itself will be as enticing and smoothly handled as the opening, I can see Flavia solving crimes into adulthood. Great title too!”
“Really adored the voice of the characters in this — especially Flavia, the spirited main protagonist — and the sense of place is beautifully described, particularly when telling the history of the house and its inhabitants. The family unit, comprising of the taciturn, introspective Colonel and his three daughters is well written, humorous and the sibling relationships very realistic. The author should be praised for creating a work that has nostalgic interest as well as a murder mystery, in places this almost reads like an Enid Blyton novel for adults!”
“When eleven year old Flavia de Luce discovers a body in the cucumber patch, she cannot believe her good luck. The police, however, suspect her father of the crime and Flavia… begins her own investigation. Written in an unashamedly jolly-hockey-sticks style, this is a terrifically good tale of murder, mayhem and postage stamps. Flavia is girl like no other and the book is a joy, a delight and hurray, the first in a series. I can hardly wait.”
—Lynn B, Holmans Bookshop, Whitby
“Country house detective stories usually have, as their protagonist, someone in their later years, but the sleuth in this unusual novel is just eleven years old….Flavia de Luce is, however, not your average eleven year old….This leads to much humour…in this highly amusing and unusual novel set in 1950. Highly recommended, not only to fans of the genre, but also to anyone looking for an entertaining and original read. Not quite Wodehouse, but nearly.”
—Tony K, Cotswold Bookstore, Moreton In Marsh
“Like a wonderful breeze through a summer window, this eccentric country house whodunnit will amaze you from the first page. It has all the ingredients of a cult classic, the decaying mansion, the dysfunctional family with dark secrets and the bizarre murder, but there is a lightness of touch that means the book and its brilliant heroine will have a wider appeal.”
—Steve B, Waterstone's Gloucester
“I enjoyed it very much! The young heroine, Flavia, gets around by bicycle but she covers more ground (literally and metaphorically) than most adult detectives. The book recounts her adventures and her ultimate success in solving the crime. I'd be very happy to read more from this author.”
—George M, Ontario
“Utterly charming. This is written as a classic whodunit, but with added black humour and dry wit, as well as lots of mayhem. There is the old country house and little village with a cast of eccentric characters, a plot that includes lots of information about stamp collecting and poisons and plenty of social commentary.”
—Chris M, Ontario
“I'm not an avid reader of mystery novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The story was entertaining and engaging, but the writing and characters were brilliant. I love Flavia, and I would like to read more stories about her and her adventures. I'm sure she will have many more in her life!”
—Leila M, British Columbia
"Oh I loved, loved, loved this book! Flavia is one of the most endearing, captivating, curious, beguiling, precocious characters I've ever discovered in the pages of a book. Harriet the Spy for grown ups. This is the first in a series that Bradley has planned — The Buckshaw Chronicles. I will be on the edge of my seat waiting for the second!"
—Luanne O, Ontario
"Alan Bradley does not disappoint! The story is deeply intriguing and wonderful, and the writing is superb. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading a good mystery novel, or even those who don't!"
"Very enjoyable — good insights into the life of the young narrator."
—George M, Ontario
"I really liked it! I thought it was very well written and definitely held my attention — I didn't want to put it down! Flavia is a great character — such a spunky, intelligent little girl!"
"I loved it. I don't usually enjoy mystery novels, but this one had such great characters, I couldn't help but enjoy it."
"I loved it! I wish I had Flavia's curiosity and courage when I was her age. Kept turning the pages until it was done. Great mystery and adventure. As soon as I read it I passed it along to a bookclub friend."
"I loved how the book was centered around an 11 year old and her love of science. And she uses that love to delve into a mystery."
"The story was delightful, the main character was well developed and fun to follow. It was a good read."
"I loved this book. This new character Flavia, young, impertinent, terribly clever is wonderful. The writing is beautiful and clear, and creates a real sense of setting. I have recommended it to everybody."
—Susan-Rose S, British Columbia
About this Author
Alan Bradley was born in Toronto and grew up in Cobourg, Ontario. After receiving an education in electronic engineering, Alan worked at numerous radio and television stations in Ontario, and at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University) in Toronto, before becoming Director of Television Engineering in the media centre at the University of Saskatchewan, where he remained for twenty-five years before taking early retirement to write in 1994.
Soon thereafter, Bradley became the first President of the Saskatoon Writers, and a founding member of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. His children’s stories were published in The Canadian Children’s Annual and his short story “Meet Miss Mullen” was the first recipient of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children’s Literature.
For a number of years, Bradley taught scriptwriting and television production courses at the University of Saskatchewan. His fiction has been published in literary journals and he has given many public readings in schools and galleries. His short stories have been broadcast by CBC Radio, and his lifestyle and humour pieces have appeared in The Globe and Mail and The National Post.
Alan Bradley was also a founding member of The Casebook of Saskatoon, a society devoted to the study of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockian writings. There, he met the late Dr. William A.S. Sarjeant, with whom he collaborated on the classic book Ms. Holmes of Baker Street (1989). This work put forth the startling theory that the Great Detective was a woman, and was greeted upon publication with what has been described as “a firestorm of controversy.”
Bradley’s next book, The Shoebox Bible (2006), has been compared with Tuesdays With Morrie and Mr. God, This is Anna. In this beautiful memoir, Bradley tells the story of his early life in southern Ontario, and paints a vivid portrait of his mother, a strong and inspirational woman who struggled to raise three children on her own during tough times.
In July of 2007, Bradley won the Debut Dagger Award from the British Crime Writers’ Association for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (2009), the first novel in the series featuring eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce. The award brought international attention to Bradley’s fiction, and Sweetness and the two additional novels currently planned for the Buckshaw Chronicles will be published in more than ten countries.
Alan Bradley lives in Kelowna, B.C., with his wife Shirley and two calculating cats.
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