The only positive thing about having had the flu is that I had an excuse for lying in bed and reading all afternoon. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley was great company for my fevered mind. Flavia De Luce's problems distracted me from my own.
At eleven years old, Flavia is the youngest daughter of a reclusive English gentleman. She lives in an old manor house where she plots revenge against her two sisters through chemistry. Chemistry is her passion and she's very good at it. Her latest experiment/revenge takes a backseat when she stumbles upon the body of a stranger in the cucumber patch. She trades in her chemistry prowess for detective skills, following the clues-a stamp, a dead bird, and a custard pie- to solve the crime.
I absolutely love Flavia. She's a little wild and slightly dangerous (she has too much knowledge in regards to poison) but she's shrewd and daring as well. She seems perfectly capable of looking after herself that I sometimes forgot that she was eleven. However, it's obvious that she needs attention. Her mother is dead (a tragic mountaineering accident), her sisters are bullies and her father inaccessible. She views them all rather distantly, believing that the family lacks the ability to show affection. It's very sad. The housekeeper and Dogger the handyman try to fill the void but they know their place and have issues of their own.
The writing is very clever. The plot of the novel revolves around stamps (...stamps!) but somehow it's interesting and exciting. The characters are very well written. They have just the right amount of quirkiness without being over the top.
There is some peril at the end that made me antsy. She is only eleven and the situation was worrisome to say the least. It is a darkly humourous book but I felt the tone get much darker at that point and just wanted that part to be over.
I have the feeling we'll be seeing more of Flavia and her odd family. Can't wait!
Thanks to Random House for this copy.