Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

by

Author: Alan Bradley

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 370

Geographical Setting: England

Time Period: 1950

Series (If applicable): Flavia de Luce Mysteries #1

Plot Summary:
The quaint life of eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, a budding chemist with a special interest in poisons, is disturbed by the discovery of a dead bird left on the doorstep of her family’s English manor, a postage stamp impaled in its beak. This symbolic message visibly disturbs her reclusive, stamp collecting father, and when she finds a dying man in the cucumber patch only hours later, Flavia is mostly thrilled by the opportunity to investigate the relationship between the two events. Her investigation reveals links between her father, the recently deceased, and the suspicious death of a schoolteacher, and when her father is arrested, the precocious preteen is more determined than ever to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Narrator Flavia is as charming as she is intelligent, and Bradley’s fictional Bishop’s Lacey, a small town in the English countryside, comes alive with his evocative descriptions and its colorful inhabitants.

Subject Headings:
Child detectives, England, Murder investigations, Chemistry, Poisons, Sisters, Father and daughter, Stamp collecting, Child prodigies

Appeal:
Witty, compelling, quirky, descriptive, extravagant, upbeat, playful, polished, well-drawn characters, evocative, folksy, investigative, series, lush, details of poisons, detailed setting

3 terms that best describe this book:
Upbeat, playful, compelling

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Told from the perspective of 15 year-old Christopher, an autistic math prodigy, this touching and unique tale follows him as he tries to solve the mystery behind his neighbor’s dead dog and stumbles upon some revelations about his absent mother.
Similarities: Young prodigy solving a mystery, quirky characters, family relationships

Death at Wentwater Court (Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries #1) by Carola Dunn
After her husband is killed during World War I, Daisy Dalrymple decides to make an independent living as a journalist. When a murder occurs while Daisy is researching her first assignment at Wentwater Court, she aids Scotland Yard in finding the killer.
Similarities: Amateur investigator, Historical English setting

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
This quirky novel is accented by illustrations and footnotes from 12-year-old narrator and prodigy, T.S. Spivet. When he travels to Washington, D. C. to accept an award, he meets a colorful cast of characters.
Similarities: Young prodigy as narrator, richly detailed, family relationships

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Poisons: From Hemlock to Botox and the Killer Bean of Calabar by Peter Macinnis
Details the many uses of popular toxins, how they are detected and created, and how poisons have been used throughout history and popular literature.
Similarities: Poisons are narrator Flavia’s passion

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks
In this memoir, acclaimed science writer and distinguished neurologist Oliver Sacks recalls his childhood love affair with chemistry and the pains of growing up in wartime England.
Similarities: Child chemists, England in the 1950s, quirky family

Blue Mauritius by Helen Morgan
Provides a history of the most valuable stamp of all time, the passionate collectors in pursuit of it, and how stamp hunting became a popular hobby.
Similarities: Investigative, Stamp collecting is Colonel de Luce’s hobby of choice

Name: Cassie Carbaugh

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