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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

A Flavia de Luce Mystery
Written by: Alan Bradley
Narrated by: Jayne Entwistle
Series: Flavia de Luce Mysteries, Book 1
Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (63 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In his wickedly brilliant first novel, Debut Dagger Award winner Alan Bradley introduces one of the most singular and engaging heroines in recent fiction: 11-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison.

It is the summer of 1950 and a series of inexplicable events has struck Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia's family calls home. A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. 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.

To Flavia the investigation is the stuff of science: full of possibilities, contradictions, and connections. Soon her father, a man raising his three daughters alone, is seized, accused of murder. And in a police cell, during a violent thunderstorm, Colonel de Luce tells his daughter an astounding story, that of a schoolboy friendship turned ugly, of a priceless object that vanished in a bizarre and brazen act of thievery, of a Latin teacher who flung himself to his death from the school's tower 30 years before. Now Flavia is armed with more than enough knowledge to tie two distant deaths together, to examine new suspects, and begin a search that will lead her all the way to the King of England himself. Of this much the girl is sure: her father is innocent of murder, but protecting her and her sisters from something even worse.

An enthralling mystery, a piercing depiction of class and society, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a masterfully told tale of deceptions and a rich literary delight.

©2009 Alan Bradley (P)2009 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"Brilliant, irresistible and incorrigible, Flavia has a long future ahead of her...Bradley's mystery debut is a standout." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Fun for the reader.... Fans of Louise Fitzhugh's iconic Harriet the Spy will welcome 11-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce, the heroine of...Bradley's rollicking debut." (Publishers Weekly

"While Flavia De Luce is winning your heart, she may also be poisoning your tea. She's the most wickedly funny sleuth in years, brilliant, unpredictable, unflappable - and only eleven. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie offers the freshest new voice in mystery yet." (Charles Todd, author of The Ian Rutledge series)

What listeners say about The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Average Customer Ratings
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    1 out of 5 stars
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Boo. 5 thumbs down

This book was painfully researched to the point it becomes very obnoxious. The main character is an 11 year old who apparently knows and goes on and on about every poisonous chemical in existence and doesn't stop monologuing about pointless details. It consistently reads like this (not a true example from the book but just nonsense written in the same style):

'ohhh instantly I knew it was hydroxy-tetrachloride which is unique in the fact that it has a 5-carbon polymer attached to its ethyl end causing extreme reactions when it comes in contact with water. I remember because my mother once told me it was named after a French chemist in the early 1800s who discovered it after he was trying to find out how to make a new spice.'

Its so painfully researched and contrived. Maybeee if you're a chemist with a phenomenal imagination who can suspend the disbelief that this is all from an 11 year old you might enjoy it. Due to the fact the main character (Flavia) is such an obnoxious, know it all brat, the reading is equally as obnoxious with the reader constantly using a very shrill voice. She does a good job capturing how annoying the main character is so I'm not sure if I should give the performance 5 stars for accuracy or 1 star for the fact it's still very unenjoyable to listen to.

Having read some other reviews, I suppose if you were reading this with children perhaps it would be better because at least it's family friendly but if you're an adult, find a better book.

I can't return it because I bought it last year, so I'd rather just call it lost money than continuing to listen to it after I've already suffered through 3 hours of this nonsense. I'd prefer 9 hours of silence over this book.

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loved it.

My kids and I loved this book. We listened to it while we did puzzles. My teenagers loved the chemistry references and got excited hearing school subjects told in a fun and engaging way.
The story is fresh and engaging and comes together in a way that makes you root for Flavia.

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First of the series

Around half the book, I felt like just letting it go. I thought it was full of useless details and I could not see where it was going. I had already decided I would never read the second book in the series. But the narrator was very good, and at some point I realized the author was Canadian! I could not let the book go once I knew this. The second half of the book was much better (for me). I started getting into it as I tried to remind myself of what it felt like, being an eleven year-old and reading mystery books. Then I started liking Flavia quite a bit. Now I think I just might, some day, read the second book!

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  • LD
  • 2018-03-26

Superb on every level

Wonderful, tight writing and a delicious reading by Jayne Entwistle. She perfectly embodies the gleeful precociousness of 11-year-old Flavia. Bradley provides wonderful dialogue and observation while keeping the plot taut and moving. An absolute pleasure to listen to. A treasure of a series!

LD

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  • Deb
  • 2017-12-31

Not just for pre-teens

A surprising treasure! I’m a new fan of Flavia de Luce- a modern, very smart girl sleuth in the same genre of Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew!

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • 'Nathan
  • 2010-03-03

Phenomenal!

To say that Jane Entwhistle read this audiobook and did it justice would be a grave understatement - this book absolutely leapt to life for me in her amazing reading.

At its core, there is a mystery afoot in the life of Flavia, a young girl in a rambling estate in the UK of the 1950's, and though certainly the arrival of a corpse in the cucumber patch would be enough to send a weaker soul to faint, Flavia is not that soul.

Flavia is hands down my favorite character of 2009 to date; she has a strong mind, a true love of chemistry, and a special fondness for poisons. Her mind is a joy to step inside, and her realization that her father might go down for the murder of the man in the cucumber patch is enough to put her considerable gumption and knowledge to the task of proving him innocent.

Alan Bradley has spun a delightful and completely engrossing tale here, and I look forward to more.

44 people found this helpful

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  • Jennifer
  • 2012-06-02

A little slice of the English countryside

I bought this just yesterday looking for something light and fun to listen to and I was not disappointed. My only hesitation had been that the eleven year old heroine might be a bit childish, but I was very surprised to discover that I liked the intelligent tomboyish Flavia immensely. She is a precocious, mischievous little Sherlock Holmes who never once lost my attention. The stodgy English backdrop to this little mystery is full of wonderful characters that flesh out the scene and give life to Flavia's world. The mystery is reminiscent of a Holmes scenario and it too had me itching to get back to the audio book as soon as I woke up this morning. It's a very intelligent story full of interesting chemistry tid-bits and historical references that made me feel as if I'd found a delightful juvenile detective series on BBC to lose myself in for a bit. And I found the narration to be superb! I listened to the sample as a few reviews suggested and never once found Entwistle to disappoint. Im downloading the second book now without hesitation!

33 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Midi
  • 2009-05-24

Terrific story...spot-on narration

A nicely written mystery with all the classic elements: an English estate, an argument late at night, a dead body in the garden, a murder investigation. In the hands of a lesser writer, these elements could signify a contrived, cookie-cutter mystery. This is far from it. It follows some basic patterns expected in a mystery, but delivered in the first person narrative by a completely likeable, precocious eleven year old, it turns into a very engaging, suspenseful, funny and entertaining story.

I loved Jayne Entwhistle's reading, her voice and inflections perfectly capture what one might expect of an eleven year old telling her tale and really brings this story to life. This was so thoroughly enjoyable that I will probably let it sit in my ipod for awhile longer so I may listen to it again later.

36 people found this helpful

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  • Daron Dickens
  • 2010-08-16

very enjoyable

I really enjoyed this book (if you couldn't tell from my title). I probably would have given it a 4.5 if it had been possible because the mystery wasn't super tight, but leaned to the 5.

It was well narrated. Many have complained about this, but I think each voice is perfectly done. The heroin is a 9 year old precocious aristocrat. It may be that those who found the voice annoying really would find the heroin annoying if they were to meet her in real life. If that is the case you probably shouldn't be listen to this series. On the contrary I found that they nature of the characters and their world was the most intriguing part of the story. Flavia behaves as a precocious 9 year old would. Her area of interest just happens to be chemistry. In the world of high mindedness and proper English living it would not be that unusual.

The mystery is done very much in the vein of Sherlock Holmes where details are everything and the pieces slowly start to fall into place by the end of the story. Again, the mystery does not have the tight reveal of some books, but is well done none the less.

Over all I would highly recommend the book for the character development, its fun flair, the narration, and the way the story transports you to the period in which it is written.

16 people found this helpful

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  • The Louligan
  • 2013-08-14

OUTSTANDING!!

At 63, it's hard for me to adequately justify why I found this entire series about an 11 year-old sleuth so appealing. Young Flavia seems to think like an adult. But if you think back to the time you were a child, I'm sure you will remember how much you hated grown-ups acting like you were a piece of furniture, with no independent thought. I knew at age 3 that I hated broccoli - nothing has changed in 6 decades! Author Alan Bradley's depiction is spot on. The humor is tongue in cheek and often a real belly buster. This is also the very rare pairing of a great book with the perfect narrator. If Jayne Ebtwistle is ever replaced, this series will lose 50% of its appeal. I've read the entire series, just finishing the most recently released book which ended with a mind-blowing clift-hanger. I can't wait for book 6.

24 people found this helpful

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  • JJS1
  • 2015-02-02

Just not for me.

Would you try another book from Alan Bradley and/or Jayne Entwistle?

I bought it based on all the positive reviews, but by Chapter 2 I couldn't listen anymore. Seemed silly and like it was for 10 year old girls. I suspect it would have gotten better, based on the number of very positive reviews, but I couldn't wait it out. I found myself rewinding repeatedly because my mind would wander and I just couldn't get used to the voice of the narrator. Just wasn't for me.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Jenny
  • 2015-02-20

Couldn't get past first Chapter: Narration Problem

I read previous reviews complaining about the narrator, and I listened to the sample and thought "that's not bad..." and got the book because the physical copy has been recommended to me a few times before.

The narrator sounds like your friend who is a friendly gossip, and is telling you something particularly fun/juicy. Which in small doses, is fun, and brings a smile to your face. It's infectious and just plane friendly! But here's the thing, the ENTIRE book is like that. It makes it sound like EVERYTHING is a gooey truth. There is no nuance. And it makes it highly irritating.I just want to say "Hey, it's okay, I get it, just talk normally for now, and when it's something really good, you can lay it on thick."

Unfortunately, I just couldn't get through the first chapter, and I really really wanted to like it.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Melissa Rose
  • 2019-10-08

Flavia is a delight

Oh, why did I wait so long to read this book? For years I have heard nothing but good things about Flavia De Luce, yet I left her sitting on my shelf, gathering dust for years. So, I finally decided to give in and pick up the audio version of the novel to enhance my experience. I was captivated.

Okay, yes, an 11-year-old sleuth solving a murder is fairly unrealistic. However, I loved Flavia so much, her dry humour had me chucking throughout the story.

On top of that, what I liked about this particular book was that the mystery was quite interesting despite a rather obvious killer, and I learned a few interesting tidbits about philately along the way.

As for the narration, I wasn't quite sure that I liked Jayne Entwistle at first, although after warming up to the voice, I thought she did an excellent job bringing Flavia to life.

In the end, I absolutely loved The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and I cannot wait to follow Flavia's adventures in the following books.

I would highly recommend this story to my fellow mystery lovers.

2 people found this helpful

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  • E. Smith
  • 2019-10-03

Ah, Flavia, my new heroine!

A delightful beginning to what will most probably be the best "new cozy series." I thoroughly enjoyed this story & look forward to the next one. And --- I'm not a teen but in my 80's! Flavia is smart - love all the chemistry & physics references - and at the same time she is still a young girl. She has to deal with a disinterested father & 2 older "meany" sisters. Yea for Flavia - cheer her on!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Coffee Lover
  • 2012-01-23

Delicious!

I'll have another piece of that pie please! Seriously, this is the most delightful surprise. I wasn't expecting that much and in fact, put off listening until a few days ago and now I cannot bear for it to end. Jayne Entwistle is absolutely brilliant in her portrayal of Flavia and I am savoring every morsel of this debut novel. Looking forward to the next one in the series and praying that the author gives us lots more of Flavia.

11 people found this helpful