The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Book - 2009
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Winner of the 2007 Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger

A delightfully dark English mystery, featuring precocious young sleuth Flavia de Luce and her eccentric family.

The summer of 1950 hasn't offered up anything out of the ordinary for eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce: bicycle explorations around the village, keeping tabs on her neighbours, relentless battles with her older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, and brewing up poisonous concoctions while plotting revenge in their home's abandoned Victorian chemistry lab, which Flavia has claimed for her own.

But then a series of mysterious events gets Flavia's attention: A dead bird is found on the doormat, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. A mysterious late-night visitor argues with her aloof father, Colonel de Luce, behind closed doors. And in the early morning Flavia finds a red-headed stranger lying in the cucumber patch and watches him take his dying breath. For Flavia, the summer begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw: " 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."

Did the stranger die of poisoning? There was a piece missing from Mrs. Mullet's custard pie, and none of the de Luces would have dared to eat the awful thing. Or could he have been killed by the family's loyal handyman, Dogger... or by the Colonel himself! At that moment, Flavia commits herself to solving the crime -- even if it means keeping information from the village police, in order to protect her family. But then her father confesses to the crime, for the same reason, and it's up to Flavia to free him of suspicion. Only she has the ingenuity to follow the clues that reveal the victim's identity, and a conspiracy that reaches back into the de Luces' murky past.

A thoroughly entertaining romp of a novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is inventive and quick-witted, with tongue-in-cheek humour that transcends the macabre seriousness of its subject.
ISBN: 9780385665827
Characteristics: 292 pages ;,23 cm.


From Library Staff

Flavia DeLuce isn't about to be distracted by boys and make-up. Her chemistry lab and Gladys, her trusty bicycle is all she needs to find out what or who killed the man in the garden.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Sep 14, 2018

Flavia de Luce, volume 1. Outrageously good.

Jul 10, 2018

If Flavia de Luce were a living, breathing girl, it's possible she would annoy me no end. As a fictional character whose thoughts I was privy to, however, she delighted me. At turns wise beyond her years and a child who longs to know she's loved, Flavia was the most endearing protagonist I've encountered in months. I thoroughly enjoyed Alan Bradley's turns of phrase, and I was thrilled to learn about four-fifths of the way through the book that it's the first in a series. (Not sure how I missed that; it's clear in the presentation of the book title above. Nevertheless, I had, and the fact that there was more Flavia de Luce to be had was a pleasurable knowledge as I came to the close of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

May 16, 2018

This was a delightful series beginning, and I enjoyed it so much I've requested all the subsequent books, and they can't get here soon enough for me!

Flavia de Luce is a fun, spunky heroine, whose passion for chemistry is catching. (You would think her sisters would learn not to trifle with her, given her aptitude for twisting the science into childishly appropriate acts of revenge!) When she overhears her father arguing with someone one night, only to stumble across that same someone as he lies dying the next morning, she is faced with the unpleasant prospect that either her father or someone close to home is a murderer. Incensed by the the murder investigator's brushing her off because she is "merely" a girl, she determines to get to the bottom of things on her own.

Side Note 1: One of the most astonishing aspects of this book is that the author had, in fact, NEVER been to England until he went there to receive an award for writing this book. (This was mentioned in the notes following the story.) He must have done hours upon hours of meticulous research, because his descriptions ring true, and I'm sure he would never have received a British award for his writing if there had been any blatant discrepancies.

Side Note 2: The narrator for the audiobook is PERFECT for the role of Flavia. She has a certain timbre of voice and inflection that makes you think you are listening to a little girl, without it seeming forced or fake. I reached a point where I had to have the print version because I couldn't listen fast enough, but the portion I did listen to was highly entertaining.

PimaLib_ChristineR Feb 23, 2018

While there are several entries to the precocious-youth-solves-mystery genre, Flavia de Luce is one-of-a-kind. Bradley does a stellar job with Flavia as a ten-year-old. With her mother dying on a mountain in Tibet when she was one, and her father sunk in his philatelist pastimes, Flavia, and her two older sisters, Ophelia (Feely) and Daphne (Daffy) have the run of Buckshaw, the ancient family home. Flavia's tastes run to chemistry, and specifically poison. She spends much of her free time in the Victorian lab left by an ancestor. Despite her knowledge of chemistry, and her ability to sniff out clues, Flavia is still tormented to tears by her sisters, and yearns for a closer relationship with her father. It's a nice balance.

Besides the characters and dialogue, Bradley builds a great traditional whodunit. Flavia first discovers a dead bird on the back stoop, with a stamp impaled on its beak. Later, she snoops on her father arguing with a man she's never seen before...until she finds him dead in the cucumber patch the next morning. Is her father a killer? Who's the stand-in for the village librarian and what is she up to? Flavia is intent on finding out the answers, even if it means pulling off her braces.

Feb 06, 2018

I would like to apologize to anyone waiting for this book as of 02-06-18. I have spent a half hour trying to figure out how to return this book. (I accidentally downloaded it as an Adobe EPUB.) This is insanely difficult. Frankly, I do not know if it's even possible. Returning a Kindle book is also very difficult, but at least it's possible.

Jan 26, 2018

I loved this book, the main character is so witty, likable and intelligent. The author did a wonderful job of getting childhood and sister dynamics correct with their constant irritation mingled with love of each other.

Oct 27, 2017

I love the story line in this book series - unfortunately, the author gets too caught up with delve into details that are not part of the story line - and if I was reading the book and not listening to it - I would just skip over.

barigsoy Oct 12, 2017

A terrific yarn about a bright and precocious little girl who solves a murder. The author captures a child's wonderment perfectly. It is humorously written and was fun to read.

Oct 10, 2017

The first in a mystery series about 11-year-old Flavia de Luce, chemist and detective. Entertaining. Filed under adult mystery but could surely be young adult or even children's fiction.

Oct 07, 2017

I did not enjoy this as much as others - I found it engaging at first. The young 11 year old girl is a lot of fun as a character and her life in the big house where she explores chemistry, is ignored by her father and tortured by her sisters, makes for a good beginning. But as it progressed I found it became repetitive and lost its sparkle for me.

View All Comments


Add a Summary

Aug 20, 2015

Like murder mysteries? Can you compete with an amateur chemistry student who is 11 years old? Funny, unexpected murder mystery with a likeable, young heroine! Watch out - her specialty is poisons!

Aug 19, 2015

mystery fiction, yng girl interested in chemistry, mystery of father's trial

Apr 30, 2011

11 yr old Flavia de Luce murder mystery. 1st in a series

Jul 28, 2010

Flavia de Luce is an 11 yr. old chemistry whiz. She has two older sisters with whom she is at odds. Her father, a philatelist, is distant and unavailable and she is largely parented by the housekeeper and the gardener. She helps solve the murder of one of her father's school friends who is found dead in the garden.

black_cat Jul 05, 2010

An adult book but can be read by advanced younger readers. Main character is a young, strong female who finds herself in danger while investigating a mystery that arrived at her doorstep.


Add a Quote

May 24, 2018

"As I stood outside Cow Lane, it occurred to me that Heaven must be a place where the library is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

No....eight days a week."

deborahg99 Aug 04, 2016

"As I stood outside Cow Lane, it occurred to me that Heaven must be a place where the library is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

No....eight days a week."

Aug 20, 2015

“I remembered a piece of sisterly advice, which Feely once gave Daffy and me:
"If ever you're accosted by a man," she'd said, "kick him in the Casanovas and run like blue blazes!"
Although it had sounded at the time like a useful bit of intelligence, the only problem was that I didn't know where the Casanovas were located.
I'd have to think of something else.”

Feb 02, 2010

"I was me. I was Flavia. And I loved myself, even if no one else did." - p 59

Oct 29, 2009

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.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

mlabreche11 May 28, 2013

mlabreche11 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

cino1 May 03, 2011

cino1 thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

Dec 21, 2010

hil_elrick thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Amie Jun 10, 2009

Amie thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top