I think every review of the Flavia de Luce books contains the word “precocious” in it somewhere. Flavia is no ordinary 11-year-old. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first book in this mystery series, and introduces chemistry whiz, poison-obsessed Flavia, her widowed father, her two sisters, their retainer Dogger, and their housekeeper Mrs. Mullett. The de Luces own a slightly dilapidated country home in 1950s England. At the start of the novel, Flavia overhears her father arguing with a strange man, and later finds the man dying in their vegetable garden. She begins her own murder investigation, hoping to find evidence that will exonerate her father, who becomes the main suspect.
I liked this book. I’ve heard people complain that Flavia didn’t really talk or think like an 11-year-old, but come on. If you’re reading a mystery series where the main character, who is not either a cop or a private detective, somehow still keeps finding themselves wrapped up in crime solving, I think you can extend your suspension of disbelief to include a little precocity on the part of that character. I liked Flavia. She made me laugh, and even with all her wit and quick thinking, I still solved the mystery before her–so she can’t be THAT precocious, because I never solve the mysteries first.
I do plan to read the other books in this series, but I don’t think I would listen to any more as audiobooks. It was enjoyable to listen to, especially because the narrator’s voice reminded me of Glynis Johns, but I had some trouble following the story that way. There are a lot of characters, and the story moves around a lot. It was hard to keep track of what was happening, and in a book this charming I don’t like to lose focus. The search for the perfect audiobook series for me continues. . .