I love a good, precocious, brilliant, pint sized heroine. R. L. LaFevers' Theodosia was my reigning favorite but Flavia de Luce is now a tie. In fact, I think it is a good thing these two lived decades apart - I'm not sure the fictional world would survive if they ever joined forces.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie introduces readers to Flavia de Luce, the youngest daughter of an old English family growing up in a crumbling old estate in the 1950s. She has two older sisters, one obsessed with her looks, the other with her books. Her father is shell shocked from the disappearance and death of the girls' mother and his experience in the war, so Flavia entertains herself with her chemicals. She inherited a chemistry lab in her great house from a long dead relative. Her passion lies with poisons and her encyclopedic knowledge of them is at once brilliant and scary at the same time. Flavia though is mostly bored and lonely. Luckily for her, a dead body shows up in her cucumber patch the day after a dead jack snipe with a rare stamp impaled on its beak shows up on her back stoop and sends her on a thrilling adventure.
The book is told from Flavia's point of view and the author impressed me by creating an character who is brilliant and yet believable as an eleven year old. She knows her poisons but she's a typical youngest sister who has trouble relating with her older sisters and yet loves them. She also clearly loves her father, she after all tries to confess to a murder she didn't do to try to protect him, but has no way to relate to him. She still has a lot to learn about people which, as a kid, she should.
I am looking forward to the rest of the series definitely and recommend it if you're looking for a good mystery and a plucky heroine to start off your new year.