Read after riding your bike very fast.
Alan Bradley, 2010
This is a British cozy series with a twist. Meet Flavia de Luce, the precocious child detective who solves murders using chemistry while teasing her older sisters and pestering the local police in post-WWII Britain. In the first book in the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Flavia works to clear her father of a murder charge.
Don’t be fooled; this is not a children’s series. Through the lens of Flavia’s first-person narrative the reader is introduced to a family that has suffered great loss. Flavia’s mother died when she was so young that she can’t remember her, and her father has spent the intervening years grieving and distant. World War II has taken a toll on all of the de Luces, and the ancestral home is lonely. Flavia finds comfort and refuge in her deceased relative’s chemistry lab in which she conducts experiments and solves murders.
Regardless, Flavia is curious, mischievous, and brilliant; as she evolves throughout the series she is forced to exhibit courage and strength of character in dealing with life’s harsh realities. The latter books take on an interesting hint of intrigue as Flavia’s aunt begins to show Flavia that her talents are needed in a larger context.
To date, there are ten books in the series. It’s unclear if there will be an 11th; the events of the last book are life-altering for Flavia, bringing her childhood to an end.
I highly recommend the audio version of all ten books; narrator Jayne Entwistle perfectly captures Flavia’s irrepressible nature.