Recommended Read: Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Book Review 1 Book Review 1

Flavia de Luce is the youngest daughter of three, her passion is poison and at eleven years old she knows more about chemistry than most university students ever will. 

Growing up in a decaying mansion, with a distant father, a sister who won't take her eyes off a mirror and another who won't take her eyes off a book, a gardner of questionable sanity and an equally questionable cook, life at Buckshaw was not the quintessential childhood of a girl in the mid-twentieth century. 

When unusual events occur at Buckshaw, starting with an argument in her father's study in the middle of the night, to a man found dead in their cucumber patch, Flavia acts as a sleuth, working underneath the nose of Inspector Hewitt and his gang, to solve this seemingly random series of events.


I think what I liked most about this book was Flavia's wit, it was often unintentional humour -- more how she saw the world and her impressions of other people.

"Mrs. Mullet, who was short and gray and round as a millstone and who, I'm quite sure, thought of herself as a character in a poem by A.A. Milne, was in the kitchen formulating one of her pus-like custard pies."

"'I've brought you some nice seed biscuits,' she said. 'Seed biscuits and tea and a nice glass of milk for Miss Flavia.' Seed biscuits and milk! I hated Mrs. Mullet's seed biscuits the way Saint Paul hated sin. Perhaps even more so. I wanted to clamber up onto the table, and with a sausage on the end of my fork as my sceptre, shout in my best Laurence Olivier voice, 'Will no one rid us of this turbulent pastry cook?'"

*written in her notebook
"Friday, 2nd of June 1950, 9:42 A.M. Subject's appearance normal but grumpy.
(Isn't she always?) Onset may vary from 12 to 72 hours.
I could wait."

While keeping you enticed by the narrator's obvious good wit and humour, the quality and attention to detail that the author put in the story, often adding a necessary history lesson, really helps you imagine the world in which Flavia lived. 

"The Pit Shed was the outbuilding farthest from the library's main building. Tottering precipitously on the river's bank, it was a conglomeration of weathered boards and rusty corrugated tin, all overgrown with moss and climbing vines. In the heyday of the motor showroom, it had been the garage, where autos had their oil and tires changed, their axles lubricated, and other intimate underside adjustments seen to. Since then, neglect and erosion had reduced the place to something resembling a hermit's hovel in the woods."

Something that I found quite interesting was the relationship and interactions between each family member. Flavia’s father was quite distant and didn’t put a whole lot of interest in his children, but was seen as a dark figure of strength and fearlessness, after his time in the war and his wife’s death, always there but not always present. 
Ophelia and Daphne, Flavia’s sisters, seemed so much older and foreign to Flavia’s 11 year-old mind.
Harriet, their deceased mother whom died when Flavia was quite young, was always addressed as Harriet, never mother. 
Dogger, the valet turned butler turned chauffeur turned gardner, was a grandfather-like figure to the girls and was quite close to Flavia.

"A dark shape moving in front of the Vauxhall's headlamps caught my attention as, for a moment, it cast Dogger and me into the shadows. A familiar figure, silhouetted in black and white, stood out like a paper cutout against the glare: Father. He began shambling slowly, almost shyly, towards me. But when he noticed Dogger at my side, he stopped and, as if he had just thought of something vitally important, turned aside to have a few quiet words with Inspector Hewitt."

"...there is something lacking in the de Luces: some chemical bond, or lack of it, that ties their tongues whenever they are threatened by affection. It is as unlikely that one de Luce would ever tell another that she loved her as it is that one peak in the Himalayas would bend over and whisper sweet nothings to an adjacent crag."

“Now you’ve done it, Flave, I thought, you might never see your family again. As an attractive as this idea seemed at first, I realized quickly that I would miss Father -- at least a little. Ophelia and Daphne I would soon learn to live without.”

Her naivety in some matters of the world was in stark contrast to the wealth of knowledge that she had concerning her passion; chemistry.

"Once I had taught myself to make sense of the chemical equations…the universe was laid open before me: It was like having stumbled upon a recipe book that had once belonged to the witch in the wood…As time went on, my notebooks grew fatter. My work was becoming ever more sophisticated as the mysteries if Organic Chemistry revealed themselves to me…My particular passion was poison."

All in all, it is an eloquently written web of mystery, innocence, discovery and gumption. You will fall in love with Flavia and all the characters that make up her world.