It's the summer of 1950 in England. Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce is the youngest daughter of three in a motherless household headed by her ex-militaIt's the summer of 1950 in England. Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce is the youngest daughter of three in a motherless household headed by her ex-military father. Flavia's father might have been a martinet but instead, is emotionally distant. Flavia's two older sisters are cruel, obnoxious, and in constant warfare with her; going so far as to tell her that their mother was sorry that Flavia was born. Flavia can only believe them since she has no memory of her mother. The family finances are dire and their home, Buckshaw, is falling down. Flavia rackets about the countryside on her bicycle, almost entirely unsupervised. All this sounds depressing, but Flavia de Luce is unique; brilliant, obsessed with chemistry (especially the chemistry of poisons) and insatiably curious.
Flavia's curiosity becomes fully engaged by a series of events at Buckshaw. First, a dead bird with a postage stamp skewered on its' beak turns up on the doorstep; then Flavia overhears an argument between her father and a stranger; finally, a dead body is discovered in the garden. When Flavia's father is arrested for murder, she throws all caution to the wind in her attempt to clear him. She uncovers a story of broken friendship, a long-ago death and philately. In the process, Flavia lands herself in real danger. There are a wealth of characters in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, all sharply drawn and often quirky. The one supporting character that I find most intriguing is Dogger, man-of-all-work at Buckshaw. Dogger served with Flavia's father in WWII but spent years as a Japanese prisoner of war. The experience left him mentally fragile, but he is an unfailing support for Flavia when no one else is.
I have been aware of the Flavia de Luce series for a long time, but just never got around to it. Now I am well and truly hooked. Flavia has one of the most original voices I have ever encountered, at once funny and heartbreaking. Jayne Entwistle brings her, and all the other characters to vivid life. I highly recommend The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.
Written Off is the first in a fun new cozy series with an interesting premise. What does an author do when her fictional character appears to be a reaWritten Off is the first in a fun new cozy series with an interesting premise. What does an author do when her fictional character appears to be a real person? Read by Amanda Ronconi, whose voice and style I always enjoy, Written Off is a very promising start. I am looking forward to the next in the series.
Twelve-year-old Johnny Merrimon's life and family have fallen apart in the year since the abduction of his twin sister, Alyssa. They know that it wasTwelve-year-old Johnny Merrimon's life and family have fallen apart in the year since the abduction of his twin sister, Alyssa. They know that it was an abduction because there was a witness. His father, unable to deal with his wife's blame over Alyssa's disappearance, left the family and has not been heard from since. His mother has descended into a fog of drugs and alcohol and fallen into a violently abusive relationship with the town's richest man. Johnny is left to fend for himself, doing the cooking and cleaning that gets done. His main mission, however, is to find his sister and somehow put his family back together. There are no limits to what Johnny is willing to do to find his sister. The ripples of the abduction have touched on other families as well in the small North Carolina town. The detective in charge of the case, Hunt, is obsessed both by the case and Johnny's mother, Catherine. Hunt's wife has left him and his son has changed completely, becoming distant and sullen. As the novel unfolds, long-hidden secrets come to light.
It took me years to get to this book; it has been sitting in my audible library since it was released. I started it several times but honestly, child abduction and parental abandonment are two circumstances that push all my buttons. I have read all of John Hart's books and loved them to a greater or lesser degree but somehow kept putting this one off. When I finally decided it was time, and past time, I was blown away by the poetry of John Hart's prose and the authenticity of the location and characters. I grew up in Eastern North Carolina myself, so I know the territory and the people, along with the small town pettiness that ends up somehow blaming the victims rather than the perpetrators. That pettiness, of course, is not confined to the South or North Carolina.
The Last Child is a great crime novel, a little slow to start but once it hits its' stride it never lets up. It is meticulously plotted and full of surprises. I wavered about the rating because I felt that some of the circumstances were just a shade contrived and entirely too coincidental. I wasn't all that bothered while listening to the book, so I think I have to go with 5 Stars. The audio edition is superbly narrated by Scott Sowers and I highly recommend it.