by C Alan Bradley Book : Fiction
A crime caper with perfect pitch   (2009-06-06)
"Sweetness" is a mystery novel written in an arch mid-twentieth-century style with an 11-year-old girl as the protoganist. There are so many ways this novel could go horribly wrong it takes the breath away. So the first thing to say about the book is that Bradley's style is flawless.
The title of the book is a tease. A pie enters the plot quite early on, and then we learn something relevant about the victim, and you spend some of your time wondering about that pie. So, in a way, is the fact that the protoganist, Flavia, knows an extraordinary amount of chemistry, and has a particular interest in poisons. You spend some of the time wondering what poison might have killed the victim, but I suspect that's misdirection more than anything else.
I just looked up the WIkipedia entry for sleight of hand, and one of the requirements for successful sleight of hand is that it looks natural. That's not too bad a requirement for the plotting in a mystery novel, and one Bradley passes without the slightest apparent effort. The different dimensions of the book, the characters, the plotting and so on, fit together easily and naturally.
It's perfect summer reading -- I read it on a cruise to Bermuda -- that you'll still be able to recommend to your friends in December.
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