The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a book that will take you on a wonderful trip into the 1950s England.
There you will meet eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce. She lives in a crumbling manor house on the fringes of a quiet village and her main interests are chemistry and tormenting her two sisters.
One sister is interested only in her books and the other in playing the piano and her appearance. Her father spends his days in his study with his stamp collection while her mother, known as Harriet to her daughters, disappeared years ago and is presumed dead in a mountaineering accident.
This scene is disturbed when dead bird is found on the doorstep with a postage stamppinned to its beak. Flavia’s father is disturbed and, it seems, reasonably so. A few hours later Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. She is appalled, but she is also fascinated and utterly fearless.
‘I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.'”
When her father is arrested for murder, Flavia sets out to solve the crime. Her investigation will take in the village library, a thirty-year-old death, magic tricks, stolen stamps and her late mother’s Rolls Royce. And she will cause havoc along the way. It sounds strange but the plot is cleverly constructed and highly entertaining.
The star of the show though is Flavia herself. She is horribly precocious, but she is also she is also witty and intelligent and you never lose sight of the fact that she is a child looking for answers. Flavia is infuriating and endearing in equal parts – you wouldn’t want to meet her in real life but she is wonderful company through the pages of this book and a quite brilliant creation.
And the book is a wonderous confection. It isn’t perfect – sometimes the pace slackens and a few Americanisms creep into the oh so English setting – but the charm of its heroine and the originality of the recipe have the power to sweep you away.
A joy to read and, as it appears to be the first of a series, I am eagerly awaiting a second helping!