Best Books of April: Meet Sleuth Flavia de Luce

0385342306.01._MZZZZZZZ_Oh, I've been looking forward to kvelling about our Best of the Month Spotlight Pick for April. After reading the final pages of Alan Bradley's first mystery novel The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie I just wanted to, uh, well...hug it. First published in the UK, Bradley's book won a Debut Dagger award from the Crime Writer's Association, and it's poised to take America by storm on April 28. It's been a while since I've read a book that's prompted a squeeze.  Sure, I've felt this way about books in the past--Corduroy by Don Freeman ( at 3 yrs.), E.L. Konigsburg's middle-grader classic From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, (at 10 yrs.), and more recently Lisa Lutz's The Spellman Files (much older than 10 yrs). 

These silly displays of affection are typically reserved for a book featuring characters and story lines that I really, really love. I carry the book around like Linus's blanket, re-read, and recommend it ad nauseaum to others--yet adamantly refuse to lend my copy. I cast the big-screen adaptation in my head, and rue the fact that I don't have the ducats to buy the movie rights myself. It's the book that I want to walk around in and meet the characters and become their sidekick. And, it's certainly Miss Flavia de Luce, the unbeatable sleuth-heroine in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie that I'd be pleased to make the acquaintance of.  

In addition to my review (see below), there are easy ways to get a taste of Sweetness: there's a first chapter excerpt to gobble up before the book's release in a few short weeks.  And, don't miss the charming interview with author Alan Bradley in which he discusses the de Luce detective novel series (five books are planned).  Here's my review of our April "Spotlight Pick":

It's the beginning of a lazy summer in 1950 at the sleepy English village of Bishop's Lacey. Up at the great house of Buckshaw, aspiring chemist Flavia de Luce passes the time tinkering in the laboratory she's inherited from her deceased mother and an eccentric great uncle. When Flavia discovers a murdered stranger in the cucumber patch outside her bedroom window early one morning, she decides to leave aside her flasks and Bunsen burners to solve the crime herself, much to the chagrin of the local authorities. But who can blame her? What else does an eleven-year-old science prodigy have to do when left to her own devices? With her widowed father and two older sisters far too preoccupied with their own pursuits and passions—stamp collecting, adventure novels, and boys, respectively—Flavia takes off on her trusty bicycle Gladys to catch a murderer. In Alan Bradley's critically acclaimed debut mystery, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, adult readers will be totally charmed by this fearless, funny, and unflappable kid sleuth. But don't be fooled: this carefully plotted detective novel (the first in a new series) features plenty of unexpected twists and turns and loads of tasty period detail. As the pages fly by, you'll be rooting for this curious combination of Harriet the Spy and Sherlock Holmes. Go ahead, take a bite.
--Lauren

 

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