How Sweet do you like your Pie?

One would not normally think that an eleven year old with pig tails and braces, rushing around the countryside on an old BSA bicycle called Gladys, could be the protagonist of a murder mystery not necessarily aimed at children. The kind of books that children read these days, it is unlikely that Alan Bradley’s books about the chemistry loving, sister baiting detective, Flavia de Luce would appeal to them. No Vampires. Instead it’s the adults who are charmed by the quaint, old world feel of the books set in post war 1950’s English countryside with Flavia’s ramshackle ancestral home of Buckshaw and nearby Bishop’s Lacey providing the backdrop. The first book in the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, won a series of awards for mysteries, including the Agatha award and the Golden Dagger for a debut novel.

PS: Flavia is wonderfully funny and vicious. A far cry from Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple but as colourful and flamboyant as Sherlock Holmes. I love that one minute she is whizzing about the countryside on a bicycle, singing songs and the next plotting how to poison her older sisters.

LL: That’s because she believes she is being tormented by them. I think she is a nefarious brew of Willam from Just Willaim and Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, with elements of mad chemist thrown in. It’s fascinating that Alan Bradley could start writing from the point of view of an eleven year old when he himself was 70.

PS: Well she really isn’t like a regular child. But that’s part of the appeal. The local police who initially dismiss her as a child, soon learn to appreciate her deductive abilities, much to their chagrin. It’s a bit of mud in their faces that as a child she manages to go where they would be too conspicuous.

LL: She does a good job of conning people into letting their guard down. The reader is left to guess what the ‘P’ next to Flavia’s name in Detective Hewitt’s notes stand for. But basically the police find her to be an omnipresent Pest.

PS: Flavia would actually be a very scary in real life but a book written in first person with her as the narrator brings out all her concerns with her absent minded father whose attention she craves, dead mother and nasty big sisters. You end up feeling quite sorry for her in parts.

LL: The family life, however dysfunctional, is also amusing with the father obsessed with philately, everyone hating the food cooked by the cook, Mrs Mullet. The only friend that Flavia really has is Dogger, the general handyman cum gardener cum chauffeur.

PS: Ultimately this particular pie only appears sweet but is savoury, sour and spicy at the same time. A good all around mystery with an unexpected detective.

LL: We, of course plan to devour the other books in the series. That is, if we can manage to get hold of them over here. We only happened upon The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by chance. It is a perennial mystery to us as to why such books are not publicised enough by the publishers.

PS: It’s almost as if they want to keep the good books for themselves! Authors please take note. And for goodness sake consider markets outside your comfort zone.

PS: It’s almost as if they want to keep the good books for themselves! Authors please take note. And for goodness sake consider markets outside your comfort zone.


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