I have always enjoyed a good mystery. It started with the classic Encyclopedia Brown mysteries of my childhood and grew to enjoying the likes of Agatha Christie, Dennis Lehane and Harlan Coben. Now, an expert on the mystery genre, I am not; but I do know when I like something. And I am ready to add Alan Bradley to the list of mystery writers to follow.

A first-time novelist at 70, Bradley has created an engaging heroine in the highly precocious, chemistry loving Flavia de Luce, an 11 year-old super sleuth and the star of THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE. Flavia (Flave) is the youngest of three girls and constantly finds herself at odds with her much older sisters Ophelia (Feely) and Daphne (Daffy). The distance from and desire to terrorize her sisters is a great encouragement for Flave’s love of chemistry, which manifests itself as a passion for poisons. And despite this morbid-sounding affinity, THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE is as delightful as the title and a lovely little read on a hot summer day.



After brief introductions of the de Luce family, the story opens with a mysterious death at Buckshaw, the de Luce’s English estate, and even stranger leave-behind: a dead jack snipe, with a collectible postage stamp impaled on his beak. Flavia’s father is immediately taken into custody and it’s the young girl’s mission to get to the bottom of this mystery, much to the chagrin of all involved.


So much of THE SWEETNESS makes it an engaging story: The all-things-English about the setting and its eccentric cast of characters, the turn of events and the smart-aleck leading lady herself. If I had to mark it down a smidgen, it would be that you really do have to suspend your disbelief to fully appreciate that an 11 year old could really have the knowledge, insight and wherewithal to accomplish what she does. But isn’t that sometimes the joy of a good mystery? The ability to get fully engrossed and let a little of the imagination stretch beyond the realm of logical possibility and wrap up to a satisfying conclusion?


This self-proclaimed realist must have found a little soft spot at the bottom of the pie.

Rating: 3 stars

Genre: Mystery
Pages: 416