Seriously! I just completed my first book on the list and it was The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, a lovely mystery I would have loved in high school. I mean, I loved it now but I read far fewer mysteries marketed towards adults now (as an adult) than I ever did as a teenager. Odd but true.
So, why does my adult book star an 11 year old girl? Good question! I asked it myself. I think it’s the style of book, a truly classic feeling British mystery written by a man who had never even been to England. Nor had he ever been an 11 year old girl. Therein lies the strength of the book. It’s not really about a young girl, (though Flavia is a fun, smart, snappy character) nor is it s whodunnit in the traditional sense–though a man is found dead in the garden quite early on. And Flavia, being both curious and the finder of the body, must solve the mystery. She doesn’t really fancy herself a detective but rather a chemist. I loved this touch. I am tired of every armchair detective believing they were truly meant to be a detective. Maybe that’s why I quit those adult mysteries.
The other emphasis in this book is on stamps. I’m not sure I have ever read a book where the word “philatelist” was used so often. Flavia’s father is one, and the mystery involves stamps. Therefore the reader learns much about the stamp printing process in England. Not so much as to be boring but enough to perhaps fancy oneself an amateur philatelist for the day. This may be why it is not a book marketed towards young adults. This doesn’t mean they won’t read it and enjoy it. I, for one, intend to recommend it to some teens in my library who come in searching for mysteries.
Perhaps the best part of this book is that as an adult, you are sure you know what caused the dead man to die almost from the moment he keels over. Totally and absolutely sure. Unfortunately, like in all well-written mysteries, you are totally wrong. There are a thousand other things that Flavia and the reader must find out to solve this case.
Bottom line: Delicious! Smart, classic with enough mystery to keep readers turning the pages.