By November 22, 2010 2 Comments Read More →

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

It has become a Holiday tradition in my Crime Fiction Book Discussion Group that I lighten up for the month of November.  This might be even more important this year as our overall theme is Youth is Wasted on the Young which might bring up images of the tortured deaths of young children being read just after placing your holiday lights out for the season. 

It also deals directly with one of my own personal issues:  lighter, traditional mysteries (sometimes branded as cozies) do not make good book discussion titles.  Last year we got through the season by allowing everyone in the group to select their own humorous mystery and got through the discussion in fine fashion because we had so many titles to share.

This year I decided I would pick a book that I thought would be safe for the season and selected Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  It is a tale of an eleven-year-old girl named Flavia de Luce, obsessed with chemistry and living in the haunted old ruins of Buckshaw with her haunted old ruin of a father and two evil sisters (assuming their tale that Flavia is adopted is not true), who has to step up to the plate when her father is accused of murder. 

This book is an example of how labeling can be such a pain.  While some might argue that this description might sound a tad cozyish, I would argue this book is very much in the traditional, Golden Age school of writing.  While the book has quirky characters, a small English village setting, wit galore, and the issue of the provenance of some rare stamps, it also has pathos in the form of a tragically broken family as well as the grim effects of combat services on the veterans who return. 

For our purposes it worked well.  No one was flayed, eviscerated, buried alive or autopsied for the Holiday and yet the group had a very enlightening and enjoyable read that allowed them to return to their mull and roasting chestnuts once our event was over.

Now, what am I going to read next November?



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

2 Comments on "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"

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  1.' Heidi says:

    Next year read, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant. It’s in the same vein as Sweetness– a precocious child sleuth– but with quite serious underlying themes (family dysfunction galore). It’s fantastic and seems to be off everyone’s radar despite great reviews.

  2.' Christine O'Brien says:

    This year, we’re reading The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. It’s short, it’s red, and it’s amusing. So far, so good. I’ll let everyone know how the discussion goes. I’m half way through, and there seems like there will be plenty to talk about!

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