The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley

Plucky, precocious 11-year-old Flavia de Luce is the new Nancy Drew. Her inspiring accomplishments aside, the focus on Nancy’s sleuthing prowess left little for character development and made her pretty unassailably a CSI/Detective Barbie. By contrast, Flavia has all Nancy’s investigative chops and some, and combines them with foibles, mischief, intensity and self-deprecation that skew her charmingly into Ellen Page terrain – well, a post World War II, English Ellen Page. She’s a hoot, and you’d want to hang out with her … if, in her independent fashion, she didn’t rebuff you first for some “me time” in her chemistry lab to work on some new poisons or poison antidotes.

Since author Alan Bradley has already published a second installment of Flavia’s adventures (The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag), she obviously survives the scrapes in her first crime solving foray. That doesn’t mean the story is predictable, nor that it doesn’t have its genuinely suspenseful and surprising moments and twists. The supporting cast of characters is colourful, and the dollops of insight into chemistry and philately are intriguing without slowing down plot momentum. There is also an undercurrent of familial angst, tension and depression in the de Luce household that feels authentic because it’s comparatively understated. Bradley would do well to mine that aspect of Flavia’s story in future installments, and he’d be well on the way to crafting a truly unforgettable and fully dimensional young heroine.

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  1. Pingback: Looking at my reading list from some different angles | bookgaga

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