Flavia de Luce, an eleven-year-old genius with a flair for chemistry, lives a lonely but intriguing life in the crumbling family mansion. Her lovely older sisters delight in tormenting her, and she returns the favor with diabolical brattiness. What one can do with certain itchy plant extracts and a tube of one’s sister’s favorite lipstick! The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by C. Alan Bradley, is set in post-World War II England. It’s a simpler time in many respects though things get rather more complicated when Father’s annoying visitor turns up dead in the garden by moonlight.
Flavia’s father, heartbroken for years after the death of his daring, beautiful wife Henrietta, has retreated into the world of philately, also known as the study of postage stamps. This apparently dull hobby takes on new implications when the dead body in the garden is preceded by the appearance of a dead bird with a rare stamp attached to its beak.
With Father arrested on suspicion of murder, Flavia knows it is up to her to piece together what really happened. Is it possible that her quiet and gentlemanly father is capable of homicide? Or, is some other person, presumably still at large, responsible? With her trusty bicycle for transportation and trustier confidant, the shell-shocked, man-of-all-work Dogger, “Miss Flavia” must use her wits, courage, and heirloom chemistry set to find the elusive answers while not running too far afoul of the local police inspector.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the start of a delightful mystery series which manages to have the best qualities of the English cozy genre without becoming too twee. A most enjoyable way to spend the holidays!