The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley had been recommended by several librarians, but still I hesitated. Would I like a mystery with an 11 year-old sleuth? Now I know what I'd been missing. From the very first page I was drawn to the intrepid, resourceful and sometimes wicked Flavia de Luce, a girl with a penchant for poisons and love of chemistry.
When a red-headed stranger is spied threatening her father, and later turns up dead in the cucumber patch, Flavia finds herself thrust into the role of detective. With her sisters (Feely and Daffy) and father preoccupied with their own interests (boys, books and stamps) who else is going to protect her father from imminent arrest?
With her trusty bicycle Gladys, Flavia starts her investigation in the village of Bishop's Lacey where the de Luce family estate, Buckshaw, is found. It isn't long before she learns of her father's possible involvement in the long-ago suicide of a teacher and the theft of a precious stamp. Using her knowledge of chemistry and rather unconventional (if not illegal) methods, she begins to put together the pieces of the puzzle and it isn't long before Flavia, and the reader, works out who the villain is. It is with a little trepidation that Flavia divulges to the detective in charge of the investigation how she unearthed the clues which helped her solve the mystery.
This story is charming and humorous with distinct characters. I loved the brave and clever Flavia de Luce, but no less interesting are the other characters that inhabit her world. Flavia has two older sisters, the vain Feely (Ophelia) and bookish Daffy (Daphne) who love to tease and torment Flavia, but Flavia always get sweet revenge. Her eccentric father, the Colonel, spends his days poring over his stamp collection, and Flavia's mother, the late Harriet de Luce, perished in a mysterious mountaineering accident. Dogger, the secretive gardener and jack-of-all trades, is a former soldier who served under the colonel, and Mrs. Mullett, the less-than-competent cook, rounds out the peculiar household.
Don't miss this series - you won't be able to put it down. And if you love it as much as I did, you get the joy of reading several more in the series!
Recommended by Nancy Strakna