The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Chemistry is cool, and so is murder. Well, solving a murder. And that’s what Flavia de Luce does, using the awesome power of CHEMISTRY.
It’s Flavia herself that hooked me, though all the characters in this story are well drawn. Flavia is, essentially, a genius, but still occasionally jumps to the kind of outlandish conclusion you’d expect from an eleven year old. In short, she’s funny and fascinating but never once feels twee.
It can be tough to bring secondary and tertiary characters to life, but Bradley does it here. I cared about EVERYONE in this story–seriously, I’d list them all, but the answer is “everyone.” The result is a sense of deep affection and attachment to Flavia, her family, and all of Bishop’s Lacey–which is fantastic, because a sense of affection and attachment is just what you want to establish at the start of a series.
The mystery, too, is solid. It’s complex, and has enough red herrings to divert the reader without frustrating them. I won’t get into details (spoilers!), but it also dives into niche knowledge (stamp collecting) in a way that intrigues and engages rather than bores–and it would have been *very easy* to write a boring monologue on stamp collecting. Overall, the narrative strikes a really nice balance between exposition and scene, which makes for a truly rich reading experience.
The best thing I can probably say is that I’ll most likely be reading this series in its entirety–it really was that fun.