Friday, June 10, 2011
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Sorry for the silence this past week-- I've been absurdly preoccupied. This is a novel I checked out of the public library a few days ago.
In his debut novel, Alan Bradley offers his readers the eleven year old Flavia de Luce. A precocious young girl, she is the youngest of three daughters, heavily occupied with chemistry. Her father, a widower and stamp enthusiast is alarmed when on a summer afternoon, their cook finds a dead Jack Snipe with a postage stamp skewered on its beak. That night Flavia overhears an argument in her father's study. The following morning she is fascinated to find a man in their garden's cucumber patch. With his dying breath he mutters a mysterious word and Flavia is off on the adventure of her life.
Though young and occasionally unkind, Flavia is irresistible. The reader follows her around town on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, while she conduct interviews and searches for clues in her private investigation. Bradley's mystery has plenty of layers of intrigue to keep the reader engaged while Flavia untangles the web.
Though the occasional plot thread proves to be dropped without much ceremony, it is an excellent mystery novel. Truly character driven, you read not just to find a killer, but to discover more about the cast of three dimensional figures Bradley creates. Energetically written, the 370 pages went quickly. There is a sequel out now, hopefully Bradley will be able to recapture what made this novel special again.