Friday, January 26, 2018

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

I've been on the hunt for great contemporary mysteries in between long stretches of Conan Doyle and watching television renditions of Christie and G.K. Chesterton. I was hoping for the best with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, a mystery told through the eyes of a precocious child.

Flavia de Luce is the youngest girl in a family with a deceased mother, a distant father, and vicious sisters. She is left mostly to her own devices as the travels about her small English village, piecing together clues about the strange red-headed man found dead in her garden only hours after his argument with her father behind closed doors the night before.

The plot and unfolding of the mystery was decent, but some intangible quality in the writing itself kept me from feeling compelled to turn pages. Some of it was definitely Flavia herself. She did not strike me as a particularly authentic youngster - she made literary references like one who has read for a full lifetime, certainly not what I would expect of a barely teenage girl. The breadth, let alone the titles referenced, go far beyond what I would believe to be within a girl's intellectual orbit. In many ways, having the story told from her perspective held the story back, rather than enhancing it with a child-like whimsy.

The developments in the plot toward the latter end of the book, regarding the stamp pierced by a bird's beak and left mysteriously on the doorstep, were intriguing but rushed, and left the majority of the story focused on stamp-collecting, which is not what I would call riveting stuff.

A disappointment to be sure, but there's nothing for it but to keep trying.

Rating: 2/5
**New author goal: 27 out of 30**

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