The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, By Alan Bradley

Eleven-year old Flavia de Luce, the heroine of this appealing detective debut (the first in a series), brings a breath of fresh air to the world of period-piece sleuthing.

Brainy, funny and pigtailed, Flavia spends her days concocting poisons to try out on her spiteful elder sisters. Her experiments, however, are unexpectedly postponed by a much more exciting event in her life – the discovery of a corpse in the family cucumber patch.

A post-war English country house murder ensues, with stamp-collecting and ornithology. Cosily arcane and modishly fast-paced Bradley, a Canadian who prior to writing the book had never visited England, draws on his close acquaintance with the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.