Pooka “Quicker-Than-Quick” Pick #1: “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”

I’ve decided that the only way to move beyond my sinful slip-up is to quickly breeze past it and then pretend that it never happened. So, I’m going to write a few sentences about each of the books that I neglected to review and then get back on track with my next read.

“This Never Happened” Book #1:

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Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery
Author: Alan Bradley
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: January 19, 2010
Paperback: 385 pages
Is There a Pooka in This Book?: No.

Though I almost never never read mysteries, I couldn’t deny the allure of a precocious child narrator and a visually-stunning cover forever. I’ve been scoping these books out since the first of the series, “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”, exploded onto the scene three years ago. When it passed by my eyes and onto the hold shelf behind the adult circulation desk, I took a peek at my library’s waiting list. The book had literally more than 100 holds on it. I decided to forget about it. Since then, Bradley’s written 4 follow-up books, and they’ve all had equally wonderful covers. Seriously, check ’em out:

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I finally caved as I was carefully selecting which books would fly up in the air and touch down in a different climate with me. I grabbed the first of the series, read it in the airport, read it on the plane, read it some more on the beach, and finally — finally — finished it. I say “finally” because it took me forever. It wasn’t that it was bad. It was fine. But that’s it. It was just fine. There were some funny parts, and some clever parts, and even a part about an elaborate magic trick. The story was plenty twisty and turn-y. But I wasn’t blown away. It might’ve been me. It might just be that I don’t enjoy mysteries. If there was going to be one that I liked, I think this would’ve been it. But it wasn’t.

Flavia is a spunky 11-year old girl, obsessed with chemistry – her specific area of expertise is poisons. As a pre-teen, she’s not the average detective one would expect, but when she finds a body in the gardens of her family’s English manor home, she “takes the case” (unofficially, of course) initially because the police officer in charge dares to condescend to her, refusing to let her observe him at work or take her interest in forensics seriously. Instead, he orders her to “run along”, calls her “little girl”, and demands that she “fetch some tea” for him and his men. She vows to find the murderer before he does to teach him a thing or two about the dangers of ageism and sexism. She becomes even more determined and committed to her cause after her father becomes a suspect – especially because her mother is dead and her father, though aloof and remote, is the only parent she has left. (Part of me suspects that her mother isn’t really dead, but I’m not going to finish the series to see if I’m right).

I loved the ideas behind the text; I just didn’t enjoy reading it. I couldn’t wait to finish so I could read something else. It’s too bad, really. I don’t even know exactly why I don’t like mysteries or why I didn’t like this one. If I had to pinpoint one specific thing that was lacking, I’d say that while the language was witty, it lacked beauty. This can’t be the whole of it, though, since I’m a voracious reader of Young Adult novels, which are oftentimes lacking in the very same area. Another obstacle was that I do not care about the history of philately (the study of stamps), and Bradley really got into the nitty-gritty of it. But maybe that wasn’t it either. Maybe I’m too impatient. I didn’t really think it was fun to follow the clues and form my own hypotheses. I mean I did – form them, that is. Sometimes they were correct and sometimes they were incorrect, but I didn’t feel particularly invested either way. I knew I was only going to know things as the author wanted me to know them, anyway. My detective father would be so disappointed in me… Maybe it’s different when there is no author and it’s all on your shoulders. In a real case, either you write the resolution or it doesn’t happen.

Ah well, if you like mysteries, historical fiction (the book is set in the 1950s), and you long for the English countryside (also part of the setting), then maybe you’ll like these. In fact, I think you might and I hope you do. I hate to see such arresting covers and such a freewheeling, headstrong heroine go to waste.

Pooka Rating: 2.75 out of 5 Nibbles.

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About pookapicks

I'm a 20-something gal working in Children's Library Services. My likes include googly eyes, coffee, magical realism, leading Story Hours, and forcing my taste in books down people's throats. I have a pet rabbit named Moxie Crimefighter.
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One Response to Pooka “Quicker-Than-Quick” Pick #1: “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”

  1. Pingback: Pooka “Quicker-Than-Quick” Picks #2, 3, 4, 5, & 6 | The Pooka Picks

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