So far, I've finished one book on my TBR and in the middle of another, with a last minute add-on at hand. First things first-my completed FF read was The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, which starts off his series of 1950s British mysteries featuring Flavia de Luce.
Flavia is eleven years old, living with her two older sisters Ophelia and Daphne and their widowed father in a declining estate known as Buckshaw. Her keen intelligence(her specialty is chemistry with an interest in poison) and dark wit make her an outsider in more ways than one among her family and the local residents of the nearby village.
When a mysterious stranger dies in their cucumber patch, Flavia is the one to discover him and get the police on the scene. As it happens, the dead man is an old school mate of her father's, which makes her remaining parent the prime suspect.
Since her sisters are both useless(I really don't like them)in this situation, Flavia takes charge of the case to clear their father's name, with the only clues being a dead bird left on their back doorstep that had a stamp attached to it's beak, overhearing an argument the night before between her father and his former friend and the last word of the victim(that she was able to hear) being "vale".
That last clue leads her to a scandal involving a stamp collecting club at Greyminster, the all boys school where her father became a lifelong lover of that postage item. While the official lead detective in the case, Inspector Hewitt, doesn't want her involved, he can't help but admit she has been making good progress in gathering evidence here.
Flavia is quite the hard to love type yet her quick thinking in certain situations is to be admired. Granted, she does enjoy unusual experiments such as seeing how long the slow acting poison in her sister Ophelia's lipstick will take to affect her(to be fair, it was payback for teaming up with Daphne to tie their little sister up and lock her in a closet, plus an insult regarding Flavia's family status).
However, she has a bit of a Wednesday Addams vibe that suits her well and made me cackle with wicked delight on occasion during this story:
Yet, when all is said and done, Flavia is still just a kid and she does get into some serious danger at one point, with the chances of her being found in the nick of time slim to none.
For one, what family she does have barely keeps track of her between her chronically withdrawn father who only seems to care about his beloved stamp collection and her older sisters with one on the constant lookout for a boyfriend and the other who sticks her head in books like an ostrich in the sand. Normally, I would like a bookish character like Daphne but she's very much a Mary Bennet in this regard.
Sure, siblings fight but Flavia's bids for attention are obviously a lonely girl's way of coping with the lack of a mother during such a crucial time in her young life. That makes me most annoyed at her sisters, not to mention her father(who prefers to wallow in his grief rather than connect to his children).
The only other adults on hand are the much put upon housekeeper who insists on making custard pies that no one eats and Dogger, the gardener and old wartime companion of Flavia's father who is clearly suffering from shell shock(what PTSD was called back then).
She doesn't seem to have any friends that are her age and her blunt manner at times tends to unsettle the grown-ups that she does come in contact with. Plus, she has no memories of her late mother, which troubles her deeply and you know a book is good when you want to yell at the other characters for not paying more attention to the needs of another(yes,Ophelia, you are the oldest and I mean YOU!).
While Flavia has the acid wit of Wednesday Addams, she also has the cleverness of Roald Dahl's Matilda and much like that literary heroine, she's stuck in a self involved family with little emotional support or encouragement of her scientific talents. This book was good enough to have me buy the next two in the series(which I will read later on) and hopefully, the de Luce family will straighten up and fly right when it comes to Flavia as we go on:
Meanwhile, I am in the middle of Chris Cavender's A Pizza to Die For, the third entry in his Pizza Lovers Mystery series.
Sisters Eleanor and Maddy have enough on their plate at the Slice of Delight pizzeria as it is without getting entangled in murder but the latest demise in the town of Timber's Cove makes them highly listed on the menu of official suspects.
Newcomer to Timber's Cove Judson Sizemore was preparing to open a high end pizza parlor only a few doors down from the Slice. Unfortunately, his opening day was his last on earth and since he had a couple of run-ins with Eleanor before hand, Chief of Police Kevin Hurley is looking hard at the local rivalry here.
Eleanor, with the help of Maddy and a dubious ally, are able to find other suitable suspects such as Judson's sister Gina, who hopes to get all of their reclusive uncle Nathan's fortune and a couple of ex girlfriends, one of which claims to be pregnant with Judson's child! Will these extra ingredients help Eleanor make a spicy solution pizza or create a recipe for more death to follow?
I do like this series with it's comfortable cast of characters and tasty food vibes but mainly I enjoy the bond between Eleanor and Maddy, two sisters with different outlooks on life. Widowed Eleanor does like being a homebody and is not quick to reenter the dating scene despite the urging of Maddy(who has had three husbands and currently dating lovable lawyer Bob Lemon).
Yet, Eleanor is not a stick in the mud and willing to take risks that even reckless Maddy finds to be too much(such as that dubious ally I mentioned). Also, Maddy can prove to be a sweetheart when least expected and she always has her sister's back. The two of them, along with their crew of loyal workers(one of which is the police chief's son!) create a warm emotional atmosphere that makes this pizza place a delicious spot for solving murders indeed:
While I did plan to keep my reading list short for this readathon, I find myself adding just one more title to the pile.
Ruth Ware's The Lying Game has four friends reuniting for reasons that have nothing to do with happy memories. New mother Isa receives a message from former school mate Kate and meets up with her other friends from that time, Fatima and Thea, due to a sudden discovery along the shore of the town of Salten.
Fifteen years ago, this quartet were the best of friends , sneaking off from their dreary boarding school to hang out with Kate's artist dad and her rather attractive brother Luc. Those secret trips lead to a deadly event that got the girls expelled from school and caused a major parting of ways among them.
With the recent find of a human bone, Kate has called them back to figure out what to do next. Isa feels she has the most to lose with a brand new baby daughter but the real truth is more revealing than any of them ever expected.
I did like The Woman in Cabin 10(one of Ware's earlier books) and have been trying to read more of her work ever since. The Lying Game certainly feels like a good sinister gateway to walk through for that:
I hope that everyone taking part in FrightFall this year is having a fun time with their books and is ready for some Halloween bookish treats. I have a set of three holiday themed reads lined up that should make the upcoming witching season bright, despite the restrictions of the ongoing health crisis that's going to put the stop sign up for the traditional All Hallow's Eve hijinks.
Nevertheless, Halloween still can be fun and safe to enjoy indoors with some of your favorite candy and a viewing of Hocus Pocus(it's going to be on multiple times next month, it's The Christmas Story of Halloween, if you ask me) with the perfect scary book by your side. Brew up a batch of haunted snacks and savor the night,folks!: