Precocious doesn't begin to describe 11-year-old Flavia de Luce, the heroine of this story - chemistry aficionado with a special interest in poison, youngest of three motherless girls, daughter to an emotionally distant philatelist father, amateur sleuth, and prankster.
The investigation into the murder of the man Flavia discovers in the cucumber patch is at the center of the story, and as with most English village murders, launches a chain of events that weaves together sins of the present with sins of the past. It is the summer of 1950 and the de Luce daughters are pretty much left to their own devices as their father dallies with his postage stamp collection behind closed doors in their family mansion that has seen better days.
Eccentricity abounds both within the de Luce household and in the folks of Bishop's Lacey (the local village). Within the genre of the English village mystery, author Alan Bradley has created a fresh and unique protagonist who, like many 11-year-olds, vacilates between adult and childish behavior. Too clever for her own good, Flavia manages to fall into and then extricate herself from one situation after another as she pushes the story to its conclusion.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is one of those books that can be read and enjoyed by both teen and adult readers. Flavia's desire to get to the bottom of things and to save her father from miscarried justice is at the heart of this puzzle. I look forward to Flavia's next adventure with great anticipation. This is a very satisfying story on every level.