Monday, June 11, 2012

sugar and spice and dead in a thrice

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Author: Alan Bradley
Bookmark: library receipt

Enter Flavia de Luce.  Youngest daughter of vanished (presumed dead) adventuress Harriet de Luce and British veteran Colonel de Luce, resident of the sprawling and storied Buckshaw Estate near Bishop's Lacey, England, expert in poisons, and chemical genius, aged eleven years.  Easily the most entertaining, engaging, and endearing protagonist I've met in a long time.  I want to hang out with Flavia.  Scratch that--I want to be smart enough to cope with hanging out with Flavia.  She still has a touch of youth's naivete, but for an eleven-year-old (or most adults), she's positively brilliant.

She is also, upon discovering a body in the family garden just in time to hear the dying word (and smell the suspiciously-odored dying breath), completely fascinated.  Who was the red-headed rogue, what was he doing arguing with her father in the study late the night before, and how did he come to be dying amid the cucumber patch?

At first motivated only by her youthful (and occasionally misguided) curiosity, and later by her father's incarceration, Flavia sets out to learn answers to all her questions encountering more along the way, and discovers a decades-old philatelic scandal that reaches all the way to King George himself.  Following her path, we are introduced to her home, the characters of her village ("Communicating with Ned was like exchanging cabled messages with a slow reader in Mongolia."), and her self-involved older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne.  Mrs. Mullet comes by to do the cooking at the estate, and Dogger, a faithful and battle-addled army buddy of the Colonel's, tends the gardens (occasionally taking an opportunity to teach Flavia useful skills, like picking locks).

Inspector Hewitt, meanwhile, pursues a parallel investigation, learning many--if not all--of the same secrets as our young heroine, and begrudges her intermittent interruptions into his work.

There are many good reasons that Bradley won a Debut Dagger Award, but the simplest is this: Flavia is amazing.  Add to that a colorful cast, delicious descriptions (see above, re: Ned), and a sweet, if sticky with death, narrative, and there's only one more thing to do: go get the next one.  Excuse me; my library beckons.

Labels: , , , , ,

posted by reyn at 10:35 AM


Post a Comment