“The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” – Alan Bradley

“Happiness, thy name is Flavia,” states the Bill Richardson quote on the front of the book. This quickly became my mantra everyday as I looked forward to picking up this book for another daily fix of Flavia de Luce.

I’d seen this book in the stores, was intrigued by the cover art, but was never drawn close enough to pick it up. Why did I eventually? Upon recommendation. My friend stated, “Flavia is SO YOU!”

How could I resist?

An eleven-year old with a penchant for chemicals, the periodic table, and a love of the mystery of nature all culminating in a genius for poisons. This is Flavia. And she loves herself to boot, even if no one else does. Frankly, what’s not to love?

Alan Bradley give me renewed hope for Canadian fiction. He loves words and he loves telling stories. A rare gift. While he rolls around words in his writer’s mind, savouring their flavour, relishing their texture, he knows that, once on the page, they mingle with other words and produce a multitude of new flavours and texture. He is an artisan like a chef with a refined palate.

My only criticism is that Bradley tends to be a bit too like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at times; he doesn’t allow the reader in on what Flavia sees so that they, too, may unravel the mystery with her. At reveal points, I would flip back to where Flavia had found the clues. Bradley had deliberately withheld information from the reader that allowed Flavia to connect the dots. I felt out of the loop, cheated, and more than a bit disappointed. In my opinion, this is a poor writing device for suspense. Flavia is a genius and connects way more dots than I ever would because of her chemistry knowledge. Bradley didn’t need to resort to such poor tactics. Let us in on what Flavia is doing, seeing, so that we may be a part of her world, completely! This is what fiction is about — escapism.

That being said, I will undoubtedly be reading the next, and the next, and the next. Flavia is way too original and entertaining to savour only once. Besides, I really want to know what tortures she befalls upon her two older sisters!

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