110. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Publication: Delacorte Press (April 28, 2009), Hardcover, 384pp / ISBN 0385342306
Read: April 29-30, 2010
Summary from Amazon:
In his wickedly brilliant first novel, Debut Dagger Award winner Alan Bradley introduces one of the most singular and engaging heroines in recent fiction: eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. It is the summer of 1950—and a series of inexplicable events has struck Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia’s family calls home. A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life 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.”
I’ve heard really good things about the Flavia de Luce series, and so when I spotted this on the shelves at work I decided to grab it and try it out for myself. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but I really did enjoy it and definitely want to read the next book!
Flavia as a character really surprised me. Her whole family is weird, but Flavia is a particular shade of weird that reminds me of Willard— like she’s just two degrees and an insult away from becoming a mass murderer. It’s an interesting experience, reading about a character like that; she’s almost an anti-hero except that she obviously does want to be a hero, even if she has to step on people on her way to becoming one.
(Everyone else seems to be reading her as a sassy, independent character who’s charming and likable and all that. So then why do I think she’s a sociopath? Because of how she gets revenge against her sister, mainly; it’s so calculated and potentially deadly– what would have happened if she ingested too much of the poison ivy by licking her lips?– it’s scary.)
I like that she’s super intelligent and doesn’t take nonsense from anyone, and that she can handle dangerous situations pretty easily and she’s basically a female Sherlock Holmes– I like that. But I’m just waiting for her to snap one day and do away with someone that’s annoying her.
Anyway, the mystery itself was really fun, in the Sherlock Holmes sort of way with layers of details and interesting historical things. None of the supporting characters were as complex as Flavia was, however, and that made the storyline outside of Flavia-solving-the-mystery a little boring. I may not have particularly like Flavia, but I liked reading about her solving the mystery, and even though she creeps me out I’m going to get the next book to read as soon as I get a chance.