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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1)
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Group reads > June 2020 - The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - SPOILER Thread

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Susan | 10015 comments Mod
Welcome to our June 2020 Group Read - The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1) by Alan Bradley by Alan Bradley first published in 2009 and the first in the Flavia de Luce series.

It is June 1950 and a sleepy English village is about to be awakened by the discovery of a dead body in Colonel de Luce's cucumber patch. The police are baffled, and when a dead snipe is deposited on the Colonel's doorstep with a rare stamp impaled on its beak, they are baffled even more. Only the Colonel's daughter, the precocious Flavia -when she's not plotting elaborate revenges against her nasty older sisters in her basement chemical laboratory, that is - has the ingenuity to follow the clues that reveal the victim's identity, and a conspiracy that reached back into the de Luce family's murky past. Flavia and her family are brilliant creations, a darkly playful and wonderfully atmospheric flavour to a plot of delightful ingenuity.

Feel free to post spoilers in this thread.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
I've finished this now, and enjoyed it on the whole although (or perhaps because!) it was completely bonkers. It was a reread for me - I read the paperback first time around, and this time listened to the abridged Audible version read by Emilia Fox.

I enjoyed the humour and found Flavia a fun heroine, even if she was completely unrealistic! It felt more like a lighthearted thriller, such as the early Campion or Patricia Wentworth books, than a true mystery, and I was also often reminded of Harry Potter, especially in the whole section at the boarding school.

I found it a bit slow to listen to, and thought it was rather obvious who the villain was, as there were hardly any suspects (of course, I might have been remembering from the previous read). I did wonder if a few red herrings had been cut out of the abridged version, though.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 803 comments I didn't find Flavia very unrealistic. I remember having those youthful obsessions (with me it was the god Pan and associated Greek mythology and religion) and obsessively learning everything I could get my hands on. I remember the savage feelings and the restless energy, slightly unfocused, to get out in the world and solve its mysteries. Her constant low-level war with her sisters is not unlike the one I waged with my brothers and they with me. Flavia seems smarter than I was, but she resonated with me.

I did find parts of the plot unrealistic, and don't like endings where the sleuth confronts the killer and is imprisoned/harmed. This one was especially uncomfortable because it was a female child being harmed. There's an indifference to death in mysteries that take the "puzzle" approach to the plot that offends me a bit; I like sleuths who feel the solemnity and weight of the death. But of course that's a lot to ask of a child detective, and the victim was a bad guy so my discomfort was somewhat blunted.

I loved the way the author (or Flavia) kept twisting expectations, especially the way she would start to stray toward what we think of a "normal" human emotion, only to go feral on us. That trick really kept the pages turning for me.


Pamela (bibliohound) | 363 comments I enjoyed this book this time round - I abandoned it some years ago after a few chapters. I'm not sure what made the difference, but I certainly found Flavia more amusing and less irritating this time.

I agree with Judy that there weren't enough suspects to make it a real puzzle, and it did drag a bit in the final third, but overall it was good fun and nicely written


message 5: by Jackie (last edited Jun 13, 2020 11:09AM) (new) - added it

Jackie | 253 comments I liked the first half or so and then at some point the book slowed down for me. I'm not sure why - too complicated? - but the excitement picked back up and, over-all, I really enjoyed it. I suspect I will enjoy a re-read even more in a few years, perhaps.

I was at first put off by how mean the sisters were to each other, but it never seemed unrealistic. But we learn Daffy would read aloud to her sisters and Flavia would sometimes quote wisdom from Feely, which was very sweet. Even before Feely gives it away after the rescue, those were clues it wasn't all conflict. The emotionally distant Father was very true to life.

Flavia is a wonderful character! Not just her zest for chemistry (how I wish I had some passion like that!) but her throwing herself on the ground to look at the sky and have "a good think".

Dogger was such an interesting character and I loved the mutual respect and care between him and both Flavia and her Father.

Buckshaw and surroundings was very fully drawn and made we wish to see this made into a movie.

I think the opening "kidnapping" brilliantly foreshadowed the climax, which I found very suspenseful. Having rescue arrive in Harriet's car was a lovely detail.

I also loved the very end: The King writes back to thank her for returning his stamp. But didn't she promise to give it back to Inspector Hewitt? He was a character I would have liked more of, as well as Dogger.

Thanks to whoever suggested this book! I will want to read more in this series.


Susan | 10015 comments Mod
Good to hear, Jackie. We definitely will have more Flavia and I also liked the letter from the King, thanking her for his stamp.

Incidentally, stamps are mentioned in the Ngaio Marsh too, this month, but I thought of something while reading it, so I should head over to the thread and mention it!


message 7: by Judy (last edited Jun 13, 2020 11:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
Glad you enjoyed it, Jackie - Susan was the one who suggested it! I had read this previously and, although I enjoyed it, remember also being a bit put off by the sisters fighting. But this time round for some reason the sister rivalry didn't bother me so much - maybe because I was listening and narrator Emilia Fox gives quite a light touch.


Gary Sundell | 270 comments Loved it. I listened to the unabridged audio book, different performer than the abridged version. I grabbed the audio book when it was on sale on Chirp Books a while back. I hope more of the series goes on sale at some point.


Tara  | 809 comments I enjoyed this book as a light read, albeit not as a serious mystery. I couldn't quite read it without thinking about Crooked House (view spoiler)
I thought a section that summed up the nature of an 11 year old detective perfectly was when Flavia assumed the Inspector knew Bonepenny had been in Norway from the bird, rather than a more typical police method (custom clothing).


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 803 comments I quite liked having a narrator who was unreliable, at least to the extent of not knowing everything and making some assumptions that readers could perceive to be flawed. Second-guessing her helped keep me engaged.


message 11: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
Tara wrote: "I thought a section that summed up the nature of an 11 year old detective perfectly was when Flavia assumed the Inspector knew Bonepenny had been in Norway from the bird, rather than a more typical police method (custom clothing)...."

That's a great point, Tara, thanks. I also found it more of a light read but still enjoyed it a lot.


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