Friday, October 22, 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

It’s the summer of 1950 and Flavia de Luce lives in the English village, Bishop’s Lacey. She is a precocious child with a passion for chemistry (particularly in poisons), two insufferable older sisters, Daphne and Ophelia, and a philatelic, distant father. A strange redheaded man confronts her father, but she doesn’t get enough information before she is shooed away. When she finds that redheaded stranger utter his dying breath in the cucumber patch, Flavia doesn’t recoil in disgust or fear, but reacts with curiosity. She resolves to solve the crime with the help of her trusty bicycle Gladys, her unflappable nature, and her relentless drive for knowledge. The local law enforcement has only disdain for her and they obviously suspect her father for the murder. She has to dig in the past to her father’s school days where there was the theft of a very expensive, rare stamp and the suicide of one of his professors. Can she solve the crime and bring the killer to justice before her father pays the consequences?

Flavia is an interesting heroine for a mystery novel because she is eleven years old and has an incredibly rational view of the world. She is very analytical and suited towards her interest in chemistry and poisons. Hardly anything fazes her in the story because she doesn’t let her emotions get in the way of solving the mystery. She also shows courageousness in even the direst of situations. I love seeing the world through Falvia’s eyes. Her thought processes and intelligence made the work engaging. She looks for clues in places that aren’t obvious and stays a couple of steps in front of official detectives. Even though she’s intent on detecting, the rivalry with her sisters is never forgotten. She never misses a chance to torment them and vice versa, which is realistic to anyone who has siblings. Her narrative is original and colored by her quick wit and infused with humor. I never thought a Canadian male could write so clearly and believably in the voice of a young British girl.

The mystery has many twists and turns, fooling Flavia and the reader alike. The investigation isn’t perfect, but she’s only eleven years old. I was never annoyed with her youth and I never figured anything out before she did. There is no gore in the novel, but it really doesn’t need it to be a successful mystery. This book has a flavor of its own and I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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