Friday, January 28, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Have I mentioned enough times that I love precocious, young female protagonists?  I don't care if their expertise and eloquence are over the top,  I like them a lot.  Flavia de Luce fits right in with my favorites!  She is 11, growing up in England in a sprawling mansion, and loves chemistry.  She has discovered a well-stocked laboratory from an ancient uncle, and has made it her "sanctum sanctorum."  Throughout the book she interprets and relates to happenings in terms of chemistry. 

Flavia has two older sisters, one a book worm and the other lovesick.  The interaction between them is entertaining.  Her mother tragically died, and her father, an avid stamp collector, is reclusive and disconnected from his daughters.  The mystery begins when a dead bird is found on the back doorstep with a postage stamp stuck on its beak.  (See cover illustration.)  Next Flavia discovers a body in the cucumber patch.  Being a child she is questioned, but not let in on much.  So she begins an investigation of her own.  She takes off on her bike, named Gladys of course, and solves the mystery.

The story is sometimes out there, and maybe not entirely realistic.  But it is a great mystery, has fun dialouge, endearing characters, and it is nicely resolved.  I liked reading it.  Griffin, who is 11, tore through it too, and was excited to discuss it with me along the way.  It is murder mystery, and I recommend it!

Here are some of Flavia's great lines:

About reading her first chemistry book, "Within moments it had taught me that the word iodine comes from the word meaning "violet," and that the name bromine was derived from a Greek word meaning "a stench." These were the sorts of things I needed to know!"

When she found the town library was closed, "It occured to me that Heaven must be a place where the library is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  No...eight days a week."

"Wrapped up in the music, I threw myself into an overstuffed chair and let my legs dangle over the arm, the position in which Nature intended music to be listened to, and for the first time in days I felt the muscles in my neck relaxing."

This is gross, but she's describing the linoleum floor in a retirement house.  "Whenever I stepped on one of its pustulent brown blisters, the stuff let off a nasty hiss and I made a mental note to find out if color can cause nausea."

I can totally relate to her explanation of how to solve a problem or remember something.  "I could feel an answer to the question nibbling at the hook I'd lowered into my subconscious.  Don't look straight at it, I thought, think of something else--or at least pretend to."

I've been unsuccessful remembering where I saw this recommended, or who talked to me about it!  I thought I was the last one to read it, but it turns out no one I've talked to has read it.  So if you have...tell me what you thought!

Oh, I almost forgot.  The title comes from this quote:
Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie, who cares for all the crinkling of the pie?
Wiliam King, The Art of Cookery (1708)
Clever, I thought.


The GruCru said...

R needs a good clean book not involving vampires or werewolves. This one sounds like tons of fun

Lori said...

I've read it! I liked it too, for pretty much all of the same reasons you named. I really enjoyed the author's/Flavia's voice. Did you know it's a series? I keep meaning to pick up the next one.

Sharlene, Mom, Grammy said...

So many books, so little time. Another great book review. Thanks, Kammy.

PS ~ Ilove a good mystery,

Kammy T said...

I did hear there were more. Griffin just put the second one on hold and told me the third is coming out soon. I'll be excited to read them. I'm curious to see if any of the others go in to more detail about her mother's death since it was just barely mentioned in this book. Tara--I think you would both like it!

salty c-snake said...

This book got me from Missouri to Colorado! I love it. I agree about precocious female protaginists. My favorite reads usually have them. Its great to read a book that is pure fun with the mystery, yet still is so well crafted and really makes you think. I wanted to turn it over to John. Glad to see Griffin has read it and yet no poisonous incidents have been linked to your home!

Julie said...

LOVED this book! I own it and have loaned it out several times! Maybree is reading it right now! If you can get through the Chemistry stuff at the beginning of the book (Blah!) then you get sucked in! I also own The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag (the second book) and might have even liked it better! Can't wait to read the third! I am a big fan of young male or female protaganists! All of my favorite books seem to fit in this category! Ü (Cold Sassy Tree, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Girl Named Zippy, Secret Life of Bees, Savvy, When You Reach Me, Wednesday Wars, Peter and the Starcatchers, I could go on!!)