The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie

Paperback | November 10, 2009

byAlan Bradley

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Winner of the 2007 Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger

A delightfully dark English mystery, featuring precocious young sleuth Flavia de Luce and her eccentric family.

The summer of 1950 hasn’t offered up anything out of the ordinary for eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce: bicycle explorations around the village, keeping tabs on her neighbours, relentless battles with her older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, and brewing up poisonous concoctions while plotting revenge in their home’s abandoned Victorian chemistry lab, which Flavia has claimed for her own.

But then a series of mysterious events gets Flavia’s attention: A dead bird is found on the doormat, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. A mysterious late-night visitor argues with her aloof father, Colonel de Luce, behind closed doors. And in the early morning Flavia finds a red-headed stranger lying in the cucumber patch and watches him take his dying breath. For Flavia, the summer begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw: “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

Did the stranger die of poisoning? There was a piece missing from Mrs. Mullet’s custard pie, and none of the de Luces would have dared to eat the awful thing. Or could he have been killed by the family’s loyal handyman, Dogger… or by the Colonel himself! At that moment, Flavia commits herself to solving the crime — even if it means keeping information from the village police, in order to protect her family. But then her father confesses to the crime, for the same reason, and it’s up to Flavia to free him of suspicion. Only she has the ingenuity to follow the clues that reveal the victim’s identity, and a conspiracy that reaches back into the de Luces’ murky past.

A thoroughly entertaining romp of a novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is inventive and quick-witted, with tongue-in-cheek humour that transcends the macabre seriousness of its subject.


From the Hardcover edition.

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From the Publisher

Winner of the 2007 Crime Writers’ Association Debut DaggerA delightfully dark English mystery, featuring precocious young sleuth Flavia de Luce and her eccentric family.The summer of 1950 hasn’t offered up anything out of the ordinary for eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce: bicycle explorations around the village, keeping tabs on her neig...

From the Jacket

"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 co...

Alan Bradley was born in Toronto and grew up in Cobourg, Ontario. After receiving an education in electronic engineering, Alan worked at numerous radio and television stations in Ontario, and at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University) in Toronto, before becoming Director of Television Engineering in the media centre at...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:400 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 1.1 inPublished:November 10, 2009Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385665830

ISBN - 13:9780385665834

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Sweetness At rhe Bottom of the P Flavia is a delightful precotious character. The E book had many typos where an L was ommitted and very distracting. The story and mystery were well developed
Date published: 2015-04-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I liked it Honestly I thought it was a good book however slow in a few spots. I enjoyed the main character she was quite witty. It needed a little more thrill in some instances. Over all fabulous book!
Date published: 2015-02-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Good for a children's book Not in the league of Harry Potter and too silly for adults
Date published: 2015-02-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Nice but too many typos I am enjoying this book but there are too many typos in the ebook version. Whenever there is a word that is supposed to begin with "fl" the "l" has been dropped. So, "fled" is "fed" in the ebook, "flattened" is "fattened" in the ebook, "flame" is "fame" in the ebook and so on. I wouldn't have thought that there were a lot of "fl" words before this typo appeared in this ebook.
Date published: 2015-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Adored It! This first novel in the Flavia DeLuce series remains my favourite because it introduced me to this family and these characters that I adore. My only complaint is that the author only releases one title a year! As much as I would probably want to murder Flavia if she was my kid, I adore her as a character.
Date published: 2014-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Fun story with fun characters. Really enjoyed this.
Date published: 2014-10-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Average Easy read, not exciting but passes the time.
Date published: 2014-09-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intelligent and charming A wonderful read - I will read more in the series.
Date published: 2014-09-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved it Flavia is delightful - one of my favourite literary characters to date! Great book
Date published: 2014-08-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Sweetness at the bottom of the pie Although I generally enjoyed this book I had a hard time relating to the characters including the main character. The author gave fleeting glimpses of the 1960s (3 speed sturmy archer) but was not consistent. Sometimes I couldn't tell what decade we were in. Perhaps better suited to a younger reader.
Date published: 2014-06-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie A great read, about a precocious eleven year old in England, maybe a little too precocious?, but fun to read. Would make a great movie
Date published: 2014-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from the sweetness at the bottom very good . fun to read. love the characters! I was a bit surprised at the number of spelling errors in the book...mainly any word with an "f l"
Date published: 2013-10-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from the sweetness at the bottom The pace of this novel was far too slow.
Date published: 2013-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from delightfully dark and funny. Mini Book Review: As usual when I love a book I struggle with reviewing it. My jumbled way of writing (not to mention my way of speaking) cannot due justice to the brilliance of this story. Flavia is a delightfully wicked little imp. She is charming yet devilishly naughty and positively brilliant. I fell in love with her within 5 paragraphs of this wonderfully charming, yet fast paced story. Bradly is a gifted storyteller and it was the kind of book you just don't want to put down. The opening paragraph hooks you in and it just keeps getting better and better. It is full of dark twisted humour, fascinating secondary characters and an enchanting setting. I need to move in to Buckshaw just to spend time in my dream library. I am a little disappointed that I have to read 4 or 5 other books before I can get to the next story in this wonderful series. I look forward to learning more about Flavia and her truly unique world. I think fans of The Spellman Files will enjoy as well. Favorite Quote "I made the Girl Guide three-eared bunny salute with my fingers. I did not tell him that I was technically no longer a member of that organization, and hadn't been since I was chucked out for manufacturing ferric hydroxide to earn my Domestic Service badge. No one had seemed to care that it was the antidote for arsenic poisoning." 5 Dewey's I purchased this after my coworker and Fellow Jen recommended it to me - Thanks Jen, you were bang on
Date published: 2013-04-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A good mystery This was a good mystery that involved an unusual character. I may read other books in the series.
Date published: 2013-03-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun! A light refreshing read that reminded me of my childhood reading days when i spent time with Nancy Drew!
Date published: 2013-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Even better the second time Just re-read this book becaused I loved it so much the first time. Flavia is such a wonderful character and Mr. Bradley's writing is so rich that you feel as though you you are right there in the midst of her adventures.
Date published: 2013-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! Easily on my list of top five favourite books I've read this year. I couldn't put this book down. The sibling rivalry, along with Flavia's sharp tongue had me laughing through the pages. I am very excited to find this new author and look forward to reading more of Flavia's adventures in chemistry, crime solving, and sisterly revenge.
Date published: 2012-10-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Flavia, the great sleuth of England (Nancy Drew's distant cousin?) Flavia, Flavia, Flavia - the youngest of the 3 daughters of Mr. De Luce. The story takes place in the 1950s in English countryside. She is one firecracker with a scientific mind. Follow her as she discovers a dying man in the cucumber patch and how her father lands in jail, only for her to find the culprit on her adventures with Gladys (her bike). I enjoyed this book, as the character reminded me a bit of Nancy Drew
Date published: 2012-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific find! I'm delighted to have discovered Alan Bradley and his unusual and engaging characters. This is not your average mystery but is definitely a series I shall continue reading. It may not be for everyone but those who like quirky, flawed characters should give it a try.
Date published: 2012-07-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good book, brilliant narrator 3.75 stars 11-year old Flavia de Luce loves chemistry and is very interested in poisons. When she discovers someone who has been murdered in her yard, she sets out to figure out what happened. I listened to the audio and I loved the narrator. I also loved Flavia. I loved her character and the way "she" (or the author) described things. Despite all this, my mind did wander at times, so I did miss things, so I'm rating the book a 3.5, "good", with an extra .25 stars for the brilliant narrator, Jane Entwhistle.
Date published: 2012-05-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A really nice read!! This book was a really nice read. Flavia is one amazing kid. Her antics made me laugh and I could just picture her being a little brat to her sisters!!!. I enjoyed the easiness of the book.
Date published: 2012-05-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from No punch The story wasn't badly written but I found that it lacked that punch that makes me want to pick up the book at any spare moment. I found it somewhat predictable and it really lacked the highs and lows that captivate my attention. Maybe geared more towards youth?
Date published: 2011-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Horray for Flavia I absolutely loved this book, along with the two that have followed. Flavia is a charming character that keeps you intrigued throughout the entire book. I would recommend this to anyone, and have several times already.
Date published: 2011-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Top Notch The best book I've ever read... and I've read a lot of mysteries! The writing is sublime. Flavia is a wonderful character.
Date published: 2011-07-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Liked it, but did not love it I enjoyed Bradley's writing and the main character, Flavia. The book was very cleverly written and witty. I did not however, love the book and I do not think I will read the sequel.
Date published: 2011-05-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Sweet, but I would like it sweeter Let's go straight into it shall we? Flavia de Luce would like that. Alan Bradley is a talented writer, there is no denying that. Not only is his language fluent and easy on the reader, he has a knack in transporting the reader to the "scene of the crime," the book's setting - that old English countryside of once-prestigious estates in the post-WWII world. It evoked a similar feeling and style, although a little darker and more mysterious than, of a recent British period drama series, Downton Abbey, that I watched in the fall of 2010. Quite a feat for a local author who had never been to England as he penned the book! Bradley must also have a wealth of information stored in his brain or done copious amount of research for the chemistry knowledge and other encyclopedic information that he includes in the plot. Which brings me to our 11-year old mystery detective, Flavia. Her obsession with poison and over-precociousness sometimes is a bit too much. It surely made for an interesting character and at least Bradley did provide some context as to why Flavia is as smart as she is. While I did enjoy the book, I don't feel the draw towards reading the second and the recently published third novel. Mystery lovers, however, should definitely give it a try.
Date published: 2011-02-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Be warned... This book reads like a young adult detective story. It reminded me of old Encyclopedia Brown books I read as a kid. It is fine if you enjoy this type of book, or are expecting it - I wasn't. I found it a chore to read.
Date published: 2010-07-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie When I read the back of this book in the bookstore I was excited. I am a chemistry buff and when I read that the main character was an aspiring eleven year old chemist named Flavia de Luce I just had to buy it. The book takes place in the summer of 1950. Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him die. Thus starts the mystery of who killed this man and why a dead bird with a postage stamp pinned on its beak was found on the doorstep of Flavia's home. Flavia is the youngest of three girls in a family who has lost the matriarch of the home. A budding chemist who loves to torture her sisters, Flavia is smart and loves to roam and learn. Her father is into philately and is removed emotionally from the girls and seems quite unaware of their lives. When the father is arrested for murder, Flavia is determined to solve the mystery of the dead man from the cucumber patch. I was expecting a lot from this book and unfortunately I was disappointed. Mysteries always seem to disappoint me due to lack of character development and so much emphasis on plot, but I thought this one might be different, but it was not. I was hoping for more chemistry and more attachment to characters; the book did not deliver either. "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley should appeal to those who love mysteries without gore, violence or bad language. It is a squeaky clean book, which is a good thing. It contains enough chemistry and poisons to entertain those who just want a spattering of chemistry knowledge and it also provides a good dose of knowledge about philately.
Date published: 2010-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie Flavia de Luce, a little smartass curmudgeon, with a lightning quick mind, is like no other 11 year old girl. Her prestigious family lives in Buckshaw, the rambling ancestral estate of the de Luces. Her father either bolts himself in his study to pursue his philetist interests or in his aging Rolls Royce to grieve the long past death of his wife Harriet; her sister Daphne always has her head buried in Dickens or some other esoteric author; and her sister Ophelia spends her hours staring at her reflection and primping or absorbed in playing her piano. Flavia is left to her own devices, which would be to indulge in her obsessive interest in Chemistry in the laboratory she has claimed as her own at Buckshaw. When Flavia stumbles upon a man dying in the early hours of the morning in Buckshaw's cucumber patch and with his last odorous exhale states “Vale”, she determinedly sets out to investigate the manner of his death. Flavia is delicious in her pleasure of things of a gruesome nature. I often found myself chuckling at her over the top rudeness, diabolical thoughts and ornery nature. Flavia tries to be this strong, indomitable force, yet we are shown that at her heart she is still an 11 year old girl with a clutch of insecurities. The novel is a complex formula in itself; layers and sidesteps and sequences all combined together to form a brilliant deduction. The quality of the writing is first rate, with vivid descriptions of a bygone era. The abundance of details in this unique series debut are a sheer delight. So many interesting topics are described in myopic detail that keep you enthralled with the story - philetology, chemistry, the art of conjuring, forensic science and investigations, and literature. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a brilliant effort that shines bright and true. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2010-06-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wonderful Really enjoyed the setting and the writing. Loved the character, the way the story is told reminds me a bit of a Sherlock Holmes type of story. Looking forward to more of Flavia's adventures.
Date published: 2009-11-27

Extra Content

Read from the Book

ONEIt was as black in the closet as old blood. They had shoved me in and locked the door. I breathed heavily through my nose, fighting desperately to remain calm. I tried counting to ten on every intake of breath, and to eight as I released each one slowly into the darkness. Luckily for me, they had pulled the gag so tightly into my open mouth that my nostrils were left unobstructed, and I was able to draw in one slow lungful after another of the stale, musty air.I tried hooking my fingernails under the silk scarf that bound my hands behind me but, since I always bit them to the quick, there was nothing to catch. Jolly good luck then that I’d remembered to put my fingertips together, using them as ten firm little bases to press my palms apart as they had pulled the knots tight.Now I rotated my wrists, squeezing them together until I felt a bit of slack, using my thumbs to work the silk down until the knots were between my palms — then between my fingers. If they had been bright enough to think of tying my thumbs together, I should never have escaped. What utter morons they were.With my hands free at last, I made short work of the gag.Now for the door. But first, to be sure they were not lying in wait for me, I squatted and peered out through the keyhole at the attic. Thank heavens they had taken the key away with them. There was no one in sight: save for its perpetual tangle of shadows, junk and sad bric-a-brac, the long attic was empty. The coast was clear.Reaching above my head at the back of the closet, I unscrewed one of the wire coat-hooks from its mounting board. By sticking its curved wing into the keyhole and levering the other end, I was able to form an L-shaped hook, which I poked into the depths of the ancient lock. A bit of judicious fishing and fiddling yielded a gratifying click. It was almost too easy. The door swung open and I was free.I skipped down the broad stone staircase into the hall, pausing at the door of the dining room just long enough to toss my pigtails back over my shoulders and into their regulation position.Father still insisted on dinner being served as the clock struck the hour and eaten at the massive oak refectory table, just as it had been when mother was alive.‘Ophelia and Daphne not down yet, Flavia?’ he asked peevishly, looking up from the latest issue of The British Philatelist, which lay open beside his meat and potatoes.‘I haven’t seen them in ages,’ I said.It was true. I hadn’t seen them — not since they had gagged and blindfolded me, then lugged me hogtied up the attic stairs and locked me in the closet.Father glared at me over his spectacles for the statutory four seconds before he went back to mumbling over his sticky treasures.I shot him a broad smile: a smile wide enough to present him with a good view of the wire braces that caged my teeth. Although they gave me the look of a dirigible with the skin off, Father always liked being reminded that he was getting his money’s worth. But this time he was too preoccupied to notice.I hoisted the lid off the Spode vegetable dish and, from the depths of its hand-painted butterflies and raspberries, spooned out a generous helping of peas. Using my knife as a ruler and my fork as a prod, I marshalled the peas so that they formed meticulous rows and columns across my plate: rank upon rank of little green spheres, spaced with a precision that would have delighted the heart of the most exacting Swiss watchmaker. Then, beginning at the bottom left, I speared the first pea with my fork and ate it.It was all Ophelia’s fault. She was, after all, seventeen, and therefore expected to possess at least a modicum of the maturity she should come into as an adult. That she should gang up with Daphne, who was thirteen, simply wasn’t fair. Their combined ages totalled thirty years. Thirty years! — against my eleven. It was not only unsporting, it was downright rotten. And it simply screamed out for revenge.Next morning I was busy among the flasks and flagons of my chemical laboratory on the top floor of the east wing when Ophelia barged in without so much as a la-di-dah.‘Where’s my pearl necklace?’I shrugged. ‘I’m not the keeper of your trinkets.’‘I know you took it. The Mint Imperials that were in my lingerie drawer are gone too, and I’ve observed that missing mints in this household seem always to wind up in the same grubby little mouth.’I adjusted the flame on a spirit lamp that was heating a beaker of red liquid. ‘If you’re insinuating that my personal hygiene is not up to the same high standard as yours you can go suck my galoshes.’‘Flavia!’‘Well, you can. I’m sick and tired of being blamed for everything, Feely.’But my righteous indignation was cut short as Ophelia peered short-sightedly into the ruby flask, which was just coming to the boil.‘What’s that sticky mass in the bottom?’ Her long, manicured fingernail tapped at the glass.‘It’s an experiment. Careful, Feely, it’s acid!’Ophelia’s face went white. ‘Those are my pearls! They belonged to Mummy!’Ophelia was the only one of Harriet’s daughters who referred to her as ‘Mummy’; the only one of us old enough to have any real memories of the flesh-and-blood woman who had carried us in her body, a fact that Ophelia never tired of reminding us. Harriet had been killed in a mountaineering accident when I was just a year old, and she was not often spoken of at Buckshaw.Was I jealous of Ophelia’s memories? Did I resent them? I don’t believe I did; it ran far deeper than that. In rather an odd way, I despised Ophelia’s memories of our mother.I looked up slowly from my work so that the round lenses of my spectacles would flash blank white semaphores of light at her. I knew that whenever I did this, Ophelia had the horrid impression that she was in the presence of some mad black-and-white German scientist in a film at the Gaumont.‘Beast!’‘Hag!’ I retorted. But not until Ophelia had spun round on her heel — quite neatly, I thought — and stormed out the door.Retribution was not long in coming, but then with Ophelia, it never was. Ophelia was not, as I was, a long-range planner who believed in letting the soup of revenge simmer to perfection.From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

1. With her high level of knowledge, her erudition and her self-reliance, Flavia hardly seems your typical eleven-year-old girl. Or does she? Discuss Flavia and her personality, and how her character drives this novel. Can you think of other books that have used a similar protagonist?2. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie falls within the tradition of English country house mysteries, but with the devilishly intelligent Flavia racing around Bishop’s Lacey on her bike instead of the expected older woman ferreting out the truth by chatting with her fellow villagers. Discuss how Bradley uses the traditions of the genre, and how he plays with them too.3. What is your favourite scene from The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie?4. With her excessive interest in poisons and revenge, it’s no surprise that Flavia is fascinated, not scared, as she watches the stranger die in her garden. In your view, is her dark matter-of-factness more refreshing or disturbing?5. Flavia reminds us often about Harriet, the mother she never knew, and has many keepsakes that help her imagine what she was like. Do you think the real Harriet would have fit into Flavia’s mould?6. Flavia’s distance from her father, the Colonel, is obvious, yet she loves him all the same. Does their relationship change over the course of the novel in a lasting way? Would Flavia want it to?7. Through Flavia’s eyes what sort of a picture does Alan Bradley paint of the British aristocracy? Think as well about how appearances aren’t always reality, as with the borderline bankruptcy of Flavia’s father and Dr. Kissing.8. Discuss the meaning (or meanings) of the title The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.9. What twists in the plot surprised you the most?10. Buckshaw, the estate, is almost a character in its own right here, with its overlarge wings, hidden laboratory, and pinched front gates. Talk about how Bradley brings the setting to life in this novel — not only Buckshaw itself, but Bishop’s Lacey and the surrounding area.11. What does Flavia care about most in life? How do the people around her compare to her chemistry lab and books?12. Like any scientist. Flavia expects her world to obey certain rules, and seems to be thrown off kilter when surprises occur. How much does she rely on the predictability of those around her, like her father and her sisters, in order to pursue her own interests (like solving the murder)? Is Flavia truly surprised when Feely and Dogger come to her rescue?

Editorial Reviews

"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“One of the hottest reads of 2009.” — The Times (U.K.)“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 of Death Walked In“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, acclaimed author of Still LifePraise from the CWA 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!”From the Hardcover edition.