Book Review: “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” by Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce is a precocious 11 year girl with a vast knowledge of chemistry, with poisons being her specialty.  In the middle of the night, she stumbles upon a dying man in her family’s garden, not long after she’d seen him arguing with her father.  There’s a mystery to solve, and Flavia’s on the case!  The police seem only interested in her father as a suspect, but Flavia thinks someone else is the culprit.  Can she find it out and prove it to the police before she ends up just like that stranger in her garden?

For years I have been hearing about these books, and about how fun they are.  So many people recommended it to me, and it was on a “staff’s pick” shelf at the indie bookstore where I purchased it.  It is also quite popular with patrons in my library – made apparent to me when the most recent book was published.  And, I’m sorry to say, I just didn’t get into it.

To be fair, this has been a crazy busy week.  We adopted the cutest little puppy in the world, but she quickly came down with pneumonia.  She was also exposed to a deadly sickness too (her twin died in her foster home) so we have been on edge looking for any sign she might come down with that too.  So this has been kind of scatterbrain kind of week and perhaps not the best time to read a mystery, which is not one of my usual genres.  Unfortunately, I found this way to easy to put down, even while in the middle of a chapter which is a huge pet peeve of mine.  And yet, I was doing it a lot.  I’d read a couple pages and just fall asleep, no matter what.

The character of Flavia is great though.  She is funny, smart, and very very clever.  She’s a great feminist who idolizes other scientists – especially female ones.  She’s the youngest of three girls being raised by a widowed father.  Dad is pretty aloof and distant.  There are also two caretakers – Mrs. Mullett who does the cooking and Dogger who tends to the garden and whatever he can handle.  We also meet some of the local folks in their small town… but no one remarkable.  Maybe they play a role in the books to come.  I think the pacing of this book was really off for me.  Even though she was clearly uncovering clues all along, it didn’t get exciting until the last 40 pages or so.

So this was a miss for me, sorry.  I have no inclination to read further in the series.  Please feel free to argue for this series though!  I promise to at least listen.


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

by Alan Bradley

Delacorte, 2009

370 pages

Series:  Flavia de Luce #1

Source:  Purchased



  1. Awww! I’m sorry you couldn’t get into it. It does have a very distinctive flavor though, so I think people either love it or just really find it blah. I personally really enjoyed it and promptly went out to buy the next book…which I haven’t read yet. Haha!


  2. I’ve been told the audiobook version was good? So I’m going to give the first book a try that way. I’ve always seen this around, but just never grabbed it. We’ll see if it’s worth reading on after I try book 1!


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