|The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
3.5 / 5
"It was as black in the closet as old blood."
It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.
For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life 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.”
What did I think of this book? That is a good question. I guess...I felt mostly ambivalent. It was enjoyable enough, but nothing special. I picked it up because it was another read for the Letter Writers Alliance book club, and it did revolve around postage stamps. But I didn’t end up falling in love with it as much as I’d hoped. The story revolves around young Flavia de Luce, a sort of 1950s British Harriet the Spy. She discovers a dead body in the garden, and works tirelessly from then on out (despite much flack from the local police force) to discover the culprit - especially because her own father has been accused of the crime! Flavia is a great mystery novel protagonist with a lot of potential: she is whip-smart, knows everything about chemistry, and her curiosity and sense of adventure never flag. However, I did find her at times a bit annoying. And the story didn’t compel me consistently. I suppose I was curious about who the murderer was and why, but it kind of felt neither pressing nor all that important in the grand scheme of things. Some of Flavia’s actions didn’t really make sense to me. And - as I’ve complained about in other books - I felt as if I were waiting for it to begin...the entire time I was reading it.
At least there is this great little quote: “...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.” (I agree!)
It’s an enjoyable little jaunt, if you want some distraction. Certainly there is some fun to be had. And of course, it may just not have been - pardon the pun, because the book is British - my cup of tea.
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