“Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie, Who cares for all the crinkling of the pie?”
This is murder mystery novel set in England in 1950 and features the clever eleven years old heroine Flavia de Luce. She is a brilliant kid with a strange talent in mixing chemicals. She spends a lot of her time doing some experiments in the chemistry lab that she inherited from her deceased uncle. She is passionate about poison and sometimes test her experiments to her sisters. One morning Flavia discover a nearly-dead body of a stranger in their garden. Secretly delighted by this turn of events, Flavia starts the quest of solving a gruesome murder.
“I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”
What makes this book different than the usual cozy mystery novel is the main character, Flavia. An eleven-year-old who is just too much for a kid. Sometimes I forgot that she is just an eleven-year-old little girl. She doesn’t act or talk like one most of the time. She’s fearless and curious. Other may find her character unbelievable for an eleven-year-old, but what makes her believable for me is she never lives her child like nature. She’s curious and experimental, she’s fighting with her older sisters acting like a typical kid. Yes, she is not an average kid, she is simply unique and brilliant but it’s not something impossible. For a kid spending most of her time with books and her own chemistry laboratory alone, it’s not something unrealistic for her character. Being different doesn’t make her unrealistic. And I love her for being who she is, maybe just like how she loves herself.
“I was me. I was Flavia. And I loved myself, even if no one else did.”
I liked all the little bits of information about chemistry, with those chemical formulas and chemical reactions. It reminds me my schooldays with my science subjects. Though the mystery in the story is not something huge, it is easy to guess the culprit before Flavia figures it out. Nevertheless it is a fun journey, discovering it step by step from the eyes and adventure of an exceptional child.
Also, I notice the overwhelming British feel on this book. As if Alan Bradley was trying too hard to be British. I don’t know much about his background except that he is seventy years old when he published this novel. It is interesting that a seventy years old man actually wrote his first book about an eleven year old girl. And I must say that this book is great for a debut novel.
When I was reading the book details from Amazon, there is Q&A portion with the author and there is a particular question and answer that caught my eyes:
Q: Flavia certainly is an interesting character. How did you come up with such a forceful, precocious and entertaining personality?
AB: Flavia walked onto the page of another book I was writing, and simply hijacked the story. I was actually well into this other book–about three or four chapters–and as I introduced a main character, a detective, there was a point where he was required to go to a country house and interview this colonel.
I got him up to the driveway and there was this girl sitting on a camp stool doing something with a notebook and a pencil and he stopped and asked her what she was doing and she said “writing down license number plates“ and he said “well there can’t be many in such a place“ and she said, “well I have yours, don’t I? “ I came to a stop. I had no idea who this girl was and where she came from.
She just materialized. I can’t take any credit for Flavia at all. I’ve never had a character who came that much to life. I’ve had characters that tend to tell you what to do, but Flavia grabbed the controls on page one. She sprung full-blown with all of her attributes–her passion for poison, her father and his history–all in one package. It surprised me.
Isn’t it interesting how Alan Bradley got into Flavia’s character?
Overall, the novel is entertaining. If you like mysteries and detective stories and quirky fiction without so much violence this book is a good read. There will be five Flavia de Luce mystery series. The second book is released last year, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag. The third is just recently released, entitled A Red Herring Without Mustard.