The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Read an excerpt
See all author's titles

See also

96,000 words / 304 pages
Finished books now available


US: Bantam Dell
US Large Print: Thorndike
US Audio: Random House
Canada: Doubleday
UK: Orion
UK Audio: W.F. Howes
UK Large Print: Magna
Albania: Morava
Brazil: Saraiva
Bulgaria: AMG
China: Harbin
Croatia: Naklada Ljevak
Czech Republic: Euromedia
Denmark: Forlaget Punktum
Danish Audio: AV Forlaget
Estonia: Paikese Kirjastus
Finland: Bazar Forlag
France (hardcover): JC Lattès
France (paperback): 10/18
Germany: Blanvalet
Germany (Audio): Random House
Greece: Lyhnari
Hungary: Maxim
Iceland: Forlagid
Israel: Matar
Italy: Sellerio
Japan: Tokyo Sogensha
Korea: Munhakdongne
Lebanon (Arabic): Arab Scientific
Lithuania: VAGA
Netherlands: Luitingh-Sijthoff
Norway: Forlaget Press
Poland: Vesper
Portugal: Planeta
Romania: Editura Trei
Russia: AST
Serbia: MARSO
Slovak Republic: Ikar
Spain: Planeta
Spain (Catalan): Columna
Sweden: Lind
Taiwan: Azoth
Turkey: Pegasus
Ukraine: Family Leisure Club/Hemiro
Vietnam: Alpha Books
TV: Robert Mickelson, Mystic Point Productions


Alan Bradley (Photo: Jeff Bassett)
(Photo: Jeff Bassett)

Alan Bradley is the internationally bestselling author of short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. The Flavia de Luce mystery series has been sold in 39 territories and has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. The books have been bestsellers in Canada, the USA, Germany, Russia, Brazil, China, and Holland, appearing on bestseller lists in The New York Times – where the first two books appeared simultaneously – and Der Spiegel – for four months.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Ukrainian cover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Polish cover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - UK cover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Spanish cover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Chinese cover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Portuguese cover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Norwegian hardcover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Japanese cover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Taiwanese cover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Italian cover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Dutch cover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Russian cover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Norwegian paperback cover

Omnibus edition, Canada

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Russian cover 2014


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

by Alan Bradley



The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie cover

In a fading English mansion, a father, wracked by war and loss, is raising three daughters alone. But in the summer of 1950, a series of inexplicable events strikes Buckshaw, the family home. A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. A visitor comes in the middle of the night. Hours later, Flavia, the youngest de Luce daughter, finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him take his dying breath. For Flavia, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This wasby far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

To Flavia, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison,the case is the stuff of science: full of possibilities, contradictions and connections. Soon, her father is seized, accused of murder. And in a constable’s office, during a terrible thunderstorm, Colonel de Luce tells his daughter an astounding story—of a schoolboy friendship turned ugly, of a priceless postage stamp that vanished in a bizarre and brazen act of thievery, of a Latin teacher who flunghimself to his death from the school’s rooftop thirty years before. Now, Flavia is armed with more than enough knowledge to tie two distant deaths together, to examine new suspects andbegin a search that will lead her all the way to the King of England himself. Of this much the girl is sure: her father is innocent of murder—but protecting her and her sisters fromsomething even worse…

An enthralling mystery, a piercing depiction of class and society, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a masterfully-told tale of deceptions—and a rich, literary delight.

Alan Bradley wins Best Foreign Mystery at the 2021 Moscow Book Fair!



“[Flavia]’s as entertaining, real and unreal a creation as, say, Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe in his best-selling Botswana-based novels.”  — KOREA TIMES

“A stunning debut from Bradley offers scrumptious reading.”  — KOREA TIMES

“Cosily arcane and modishly fast-paced …”  — THE INDEPENDENT, UK

“[T]he sleuthing skills of Flavia both amaze and amuse. ... But make no mistake, Flavia is no Nancy Drew - here is a preteen captivated by mystery with a rakish mind to go with it. Subtle humor abounds - the kind that kids who know they're really smarter than the grown-ups will thrive on. And the writing is better than J.K. Rowling's.”  — THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALDER

“You won't meet many characters as intriguing as Flavia de Luce, the heroine of this debut mystery set in post-World War II England. [...] She is a wonderful mixture of brains (her hobby is chemistry, with a particular interest in poisons), wit and the desire for revenge.”  — SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

“This utterly unique sleuth is a welcome addition to the genre.”  — THE BOSTON GLOBE

“A quirky, delightful whodunit.”  — PEOPLE MAGAZINE

“[T]he story is twisty and fast-paced, served well by Bradley's engaging and dryly witty writing style.”  — THE WICHITA EAGLE

“The hook: Lemony Snicket meets Sherlock Holmes. Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce may be close in age to Nancy Drew, but she’s way too wicked to invite comparisons to that goody-two-shoes. Flavia’s flaw: The child has a genius for any kind of chemistry but poison is her "particular passion," and she’s not above putting that knowledge to use in, say, a poison-ivy-laced lipstick that‘ll put a pucker in her sister s pout. The verdict: Campy and clever, Sweetness is a highly original entry in the crowded mystery genre.”  — FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM

“If ever there were a sleuth who's bold, brilliant, and, yes, adorable, it's Flavia de Luce, the precocious 11-year-old at the center of this scrumptious first novel. … Her sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, and the loyal family retainer, Dogger, are among the book's retinue of outstanding characters.”  — USA TODAY

“Impressive as a sleuth and enchanting as a mad scientist, Flavia is most endearing as a little girl who has learned how to amuse herself in a big lonely house.”  — THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“[A] clever debut mystery ... As lighthearted as the book is, there is an underlying poignancy in Flavia's attempt to connect with her emotionally distant father by clearing him of the crime. Readers will be glad to know that at least two more books in the series are promised.”  — THE DENVER POST

“It's a rare pleasure to follow Flavia as she investigates her limited but boundless-feeling world. And it's nice to know she'll be back.”  — ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

“[A] charming novel that is sure to be one of the most loved mysteries of the year.”  — CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

“[P]recocious Flavia is unique. Winner of the Debut Dagger Award, this is a fresh, engaging first novel with appeal for cozy lovers and well beyond.”  — LIBRARY JOURNAL

“Canadian Alan Bradley’s first full-length crime novel is delightful. … Expect more from the talented Bradley.”  — BOOKLIST, starred review

“First-time mystery novelist Alan Bradley's fictional setting of Bishop's Lacey joins Agatha Christie's St. Mary Mead and Arthur Conan Doyle's London as delightful destinations for readers. … That isn't thunder you hear. It's the sound of mystery fans scurrying to the bookstore and the library.”  — WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“Like just about everybody else I've been reading - just finished reading, in fact - Alan Bradley's altogether admirable The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. It made me very happy, for all kinds of reasons: for its humour, for the wonderful invention of the 11-year-old chemist-detective Flavia De Luce, for its great attention to period detail, and mostly because it was so deft and assured, from top to tail. You never had to worry that it was in danger of breaching the rails, as books do more often than not.”  — CBC RADIO HOST BILL RICHARDSON in The Globe and Mail

“Brilliant, irresistible and incorrigible, Flavia has a long future ahead of her. Bradley's mystery debut is a standout.”  — KIRKUS, starred review

“A rollicking debut…. enormous fun for the reader.”  — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie … is full of mystery, charm and chemistry. Its quick-witted dialogue, tongue-in-cheek humour and colourful characters will linger long after the book is back on the shelf.”  — DAILY PLANET, The Discovery Channel

“It’s Bradley’s young sleuth who truly sets Sweetness apart … she’s so fully at home on these pages, and so welcome to her new and growing legion of fans.”  — GEORGIA STRAIGHT magazine

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie meanders towards its conclusion … with an innocence that harks back to the detective fiction of a gentler time.”  — THE COURIER MAIL, Australia

“The first page of Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is so delicious that I actually had to stop in the middle of The Girl Who Played with Fire to read the rest of it. Flavia deserves the Nobel Prize for Chemistry and Alan Bradley the Edgar Award. Does anyone collect stamps any more?”  — Renowned bookseller PAUL INGRAM, Prairie Lights Books, Iowa City

“A strong plot, involving philately, ornithology and prestidigitation, and a wonderful supporting cast make this Canadian novelist's debut delightfully entertaining.”  — THE GUARDIAN, UK

“A wonderfully written, engaging novel…. It's rare that a book of which I feel quite passionately enraptured crosses my desk, and this is one of those special books that fully deserves five stars. The plot is well-paced, the dialogue is thoughtful and succinct, and being inside the head of Flavia de Luce is delightful. Her wry, dry humour and resigned frustration with the adult world are seriously entertaining…. I loved her to bits.”  — OHbaby MAGAZINE, New Zealand

“Oh how astonishing and pleasing is genuine originality! … I simply cannot recall the last time I so enjoyed being in the company of a first-person narrator. … This is a book which triumphantly succeeds in its objectives of charming and delighting. And on top of that it is genuinely original.”  — REVIEWING THE EVIDENCE e-zine

“This is a charming period crime novel with a grotesque gallery of characters reminiscent of the inhabitants of Mervyn Peake's cult Gormenghast trilogy. It's 1950, and Flavia de Luce, a precocious 11-year-old with a fully equipped chemistry lab at the top of Buckshaw, the crumbling family seat, discovers a body in the cucumber patch. When Flavia announces this at breakfast, her news is met with indifference by her wonderfully appalling older sisters Ophelia and Daphne ("How very like you").”  — DAILY MAIL, UK

“A dark Nancy Drew set in a gothic Midsomer. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is delicious.”  — WATERSTONES BOOKS QUARTERLY REVIEW, UK

“Told through the observations of science-experimenting snoop of an 11-year-old girl, this jolly-good-fun murder mystery is as indulgent as a Bunty annual. Flavia de Luce, daughter to a philatelist colonel father and late mother, who dies when she was a baby, finds a body in the cucumber patch. In the twists and turns that ensue, centring around the nesting habits of the snipe and the last word of the dead man, she proves herself as indomitable a sleuth as you would expect a girl who says "oh, piffle" to be.”  — GOOD HOUSEKEEPING, UK

“In June 1950, very-nearly-eleven year old Flavia de Luce, rising above the torments of her two older sisters and plotting revenge in her Victoria chemistry lab, is intrigued by the mystery of snipe with a rare stamp in its beak, found on the doorstep of the crumbling de Luce country seat. And she is astonished by the effect the dead bird has on her stamp-obsessed father, the Colonel. When something much worse is found in the cucumber patch and family secrets begin to unravel, Flavia has to use all her deductive powers to solve a mystery and a crime. At once precocious and endearing, Flavia is a marvellous character. Quirkily appealing, this is definitely a crime novel with a difference.”  — CHOICE MAGAZINE, UK

“The star of this is Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old with a passion for chemistry, poison and revenge. This warm and funny novel begins when Flavia finds a dead body in her father's cucumber patch. She uses her scientific knowledge to investigate the death and uncovers some dark secrets about her own family's past. This is a clever, witty and totally gripping read with lots of surprises.”  — ESSENTIALS Magazine, UK

“This really is a terrific book, so different to anything I have read recently it felt like being on the most wonderfully relaxing holiday with fresh sea breezes blowing away the cobwebs.”  — MATERIAL WITNESS e-zine

“While Flavia de Luce is winning your heart, she may also be poisoning your tea. She is the most wickedly funny sleuth in years, brilliant, unpredictable, unflappable – and only eleven. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie offers the freshest new voice in mystery yet.”  — CHARLES TODD

“Utterly charming! Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce proves to be one of the most precocious, resourceful and...well—just plain dangerous—heroines around. Evile doers—and big sisters—beware!”  — LISA GARDNER, New York Times

“Sure in its story, pace and voice, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie deliciously mixes all the ingredients of great storytelling. The kind of novel you can pass on to any reader knowing their pleasure is assured.”  — ANDREW PYPER, author of The Killing Circle

“A wickedly clever story, a dead true and original voice, and an English country house in the summer: Alexander McCall Smith meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Please, please, Mr. Bradley, tell me we'll be seeing Flavia again soon?”  — LAURIE R. KING, New York Times bestselling author of The Game

“Alan Bradley brews a bubbly beaker of fun in his devilishly clever, wickedly amusing debut mystery, launching an eleven-year-old heroine with a passion for chemistry--and revenge! What a delightful, original book!””  — CAROLYN HART, Anthony and Agatha Award-winning author

“Alan Bradley's marvelous book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, is a fantastic read, a winner. Flavia walks right off the page and follows me through my day. I can hardly wait for the next book. Bravo.”  — LOUISE PENNY, internationally acclaimed author of Still Life, A Fatal Grace, and The Cruelest Month

Praise from the Dagger Award Judges

The most original of the bunch, I think, with a deliciously deceptive opening which really sets the tone of macabre fun. Flavia is a wonderful creation, along with the rest of her eccentric family, and makes for a highly engaging sleuth. Think the Mitfords, as imagined by Dorothy L Sayers. The plot, with its intriguing philatelic elements, is nicely ingenious and delivers a very good end, with a fun twist. Would make very good Sunday night telly, I think.”

I adored this! Our heroine is refreshingly youthful, funny and sharp and the author creates such a strong sense of time and place. Flavia's eccentric family are delightful and I love seeing them interact within their crazy home. There are also interesting depths to the plot - the stamp collecting, the chemistry experiments, and the acknowledgement of past events and how they have affected these characters. The author's tone is very tongue-in-cheek and offers something quite different in this genre, and the story is cleverly structured and beautifully written. This doesn't read like a first novel. Assuming the mystery itself will be as enticing and smoothly handled as the opening, I can see Flavia solving crimes into adulthood. Great title too!”

Really adored the voice of the characters in this- especially Flavia, the spirited main protagonist- and the sense of place is beautifully described, particularly when telling the history of the house and its inhabitants. The family unit, comprising of the taciturn, introspective Colonel and his three daughters is well written, humorous and the sibling relationships very realistic. The author should be praised for creating a work that has nostalgic interest as well as a murder mystery, in places this almost reads like an Enid Blyton novel for adults!”



The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Italian paperback coverThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Brazilian cover The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Arabic cover




The Golden Tresses of the Dead - Canadian & US cover
Book #10
The Grave's a Fine and Private Place
Book #9
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd
Book #8
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust
Book #7
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches
Book #6
Speaking from Among the Bones
Book #5
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
Book #4
A Red Herring Without Mustard
Book #3
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
Book #2








Back to top