The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie


Author:  Alan Bradley

Title:  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Genre:  Mystery

Publication Date:  2009

Number of Pages:  370

Geographical Setting: Great Britain

Time Period:  1950

Series:  Buckshaw Chronicles, Book 1

Plot Summary:  Eleven year old Flavia de Luce’s life revolves around her home chemistry lab and her fascination with studying and creating poisons.  As a motherless child of an emotionally absent father obsessed with stamp collecting and with two older sisters who are so wrapped up in their own interests that they barely acknowledge her existence, Flavia is getting tired of her quiet (and boring) life.  All of that changes the day she discovers a murdered man in the cucumber patch of her family’s garden.  As the police investigate the crime and find clues that appear to tie her father to the crime, Flavia decides to open her own investigation into the crime that happened in her own backyard.  In adventures that take her back to her father’s childhood boarding school, deep into the world of high end stamp collecting, and involved in a theft of royal proportions, Flavia finds more excitement than she had planned.

Subject Headings:  Stamp Collecting, Murder, Poisons, English Country Houses, Boarding Schools

Appeal:  atmospheric, deliberately paced, details of philately (stamp collecting), direct, eccentric, historical details, humorous, intelligent, quirky, resolved ending, rural, suspenseful

3 terms that best describe this book: suspenseful, intellectual, charming

Similar Authors and Works:


Wicked Plants:  The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart.  This book focuses on Flavia de Luce’s favorite type of garden plants—the ones that can kill you.  Stewart’s book is an A-Z compendium of plants whose nature has been put to nefarious use to kill, maim, or injure throughout history.

The Error World:  An Affair with Stamps by Simon Garfield.  This memoir chronicles the author’s own obsession with philately while also examining the evolution of stamp collecting.  Where once a common hobby among children, collecting has increasingly become a hobby based on shrewd investment, finding a one-of-a-kind stamp, and obsession.

Upstairs and Downstairs: Life in an English Country House by Edward Hayward.  Flavia de Luce is growing up just as the social structures and affluence that allowed Buckshaw manor to survive are beginning to wane.  This well-illustrated book examines English country houses such as Buckshaw and the power dynamics in English society that allowed them to exist and that ultimately led to their decline.


The Broken Teaglass: A Novel by Emily Arsenault.  This mystery features two young lexicographers who find clues to an old murder case hidden in the files at the dictionary company where they work.  The clues (presumably left by a former employee) in the citation file lead the main characters on an offbeat adventure to find the killer.

Hotel Paradise by Martha Grimes (Emma Graham Mysteries #1).  This series also features an adolescent female detective.  Emma Graham works at her family’s resort hotel, where she stumbles upon the mystery of a 40 year old drowning that may not have been an accident after all.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.  Blue Van Meer, the teenage daugher of an emotionally distant academic, finally finds a home to settle into after years of moving around the country.  However, just as she finds a circle of friends just as clever as she is, they start to die mysteriously, leaving Hannah to piece together the truth.

Name: Amanda


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