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Found 18 results

  1. ISBN: 0007265204 Published By Harper Collins This facsimile edition published in Nov 2007 This is the first set of Poirot short stories, narrated once again by his good friend Captain Hastings. There are eleven stories in all covering robbery, kidnapping and murder all of which Poirot solves, of course! We once again see the Belgian detective's massive ego as he solves these cases, but we do see a glimmer of appreciation of Captain Hastings as Poirot admits that Hastings has a good heart. Perhaps he is starting to soften. There were a couple of very strong stories in this book. The Adventure Of The Egyptian Tomb reflects the interest in Egyptology which was very high at the time this books was written in the 1920s. Poirot is hired by a lady worried that her son will die due to a curse of an Egyptian king who appears to have already caused the deaths of three other people. There is a lovely description by Hastings of Poirot traveling to Egypt in totally inappropriate clothing and having to ride on a camel. A couple of other stories which caught my eye were The Case Of The Missing Will and The Mystery Of Hunters Lodge, both of which felt like classic English mysteries, similar to Jonathan Creek and I wondered whether they had influenced David Renwick who wrote the Creek stories. The stories themselves are not as intricate has her longer novels and in some cases very easy to solve, but that doesn't distract from them. It is nice to be transported back to the era of afternoon tea for the ten or fifteen minutes it takes to read them. I am also glad to see that Christie seems to be back on form after the struggle that was Murder On The Links.
  2. This is a Hercule Poirot mystery and was written in 1936. I chose to read this as a result of watching the two part TV show starring one of my favourite actors, John Malkovich, as Poirot. Rupert Grint plays Inspector Crome (very well imho), for Harry Potter fans. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I had also seen it filmed for TV starring David Suchet as the Belgian detective. They were so very different that I just had to read the book to find out which one was the closest to Agatha Christie's work. From the Agatha Christie website : There’s a serial killer on the loose, working his way through the alphabet - and the whole country is in a state of panic. A is for Mrs Ascher in Andover, B is for Betty Barnard in Bexhill, C is for Sir Carmichael Clarke in Churston. With each murder, the killer is getting more confident – but leaving a trail of deliberate clues to taunt the proud Hercule Poirot might just prove to be the first, and fatal mistake. It has a nice twist in the tail and was a very enjoyable read. Recommended. For the record, the David Suchet version is the closest to the book.
  3. Sittaford House is in a small village of only a few houses in a remote location on the edge of Dartmoor. Cut off by snow, Mrs Willetts and her daughter who rent the house, invite their neighbours to tea. They decide it might be fun to hold a séance. It all beings with good humour, but quickly turns more sinister when a spirit seems to tell them that Captain Trevelyan who lives in a local town has been murdered. His friend, Major Burnaby who was at the tea decides to set out to make sure his friend is OK, even though it is a six mile walk through a serious snow storm. On arriving at his friends house, he discovers the Captain has been murdered, and it happened at the exact time that the séance occurred. The police arrest a rather stupid young man called James Pearson, the Captain’s nephew, who stands to gain from the will. James is engaged to Emily Trefusis who refuses to believe that James is guilty and with the the help of a local journalist starts to investigate herself. I rather enjoyed the set up of the mystery, I like the idea of an “impossible” crime. In this case, how on earth did a séance manage to predict the Captain’s death? Sometimes a “how-dunnit” is more satisfying than a “who-dunnit”. It did rather loose pace towards the end, and some key clues were left right until the very last pages, so it would have been hard to solve this based on the previous chapters. Having said that, when the solution was revealed it was blindingly obvious, if only I had stopped to think about it. In this book Christie focuses a little more on her characters, and we start to see some more emphasis placed on how people really do react to different circumstances, rather than her characters simply being tools to execute the plot. The motive of the murderer in particular shows she has started to develop her thoughts in this area. After a few dodgy ones, it looks like Christie is back on form!
  4. This is the first of the Miss Marple novels and is set in her home village of St Mary Mead. Colonel Protheroe is an arrogant and generally unpleasant man, but the residents of the village are shocked when he is found shot dead in the vicar's study. There is a nice array of suspects including the Colonel's wife and daughter, a local artist, and a rather suspicious archaeologist and his secretary. We see everything unfold from the vicar's point of view, and being a man of the cloth, an awful lot of people want to confide in him, giving him access to more information that perhaps he really wants to know. Miss Marple is, at first portrayed as a rather gossipy old lady, but the vicar warms to her over the course of the book and at the end she is seen to be a very clever woman and an excellent judge of character. This is classic Christie territory, she captures life in an English village, with all its secrets and gossip, perfectly. The plot in The Murder at the Vicarage uses a couple of classic Christie’s red herrings which she will use repeatedly through her writing in one form or another. We fall for them every time though!
  5. This collection of short stories features Mr Satterthwaite, an elderly gentlemen with a comfortable life. He is a great people watcher, and one New Year's Eve at a house party he meets Mr Harley Quin. The stranger helps Mr Satterthwaite solve various mysteries, simply by helping him see things in a different way. Mr Quin, by his own admission comes and goes, and in each story he becomes more and more paranormal, seemingly appearing from nowhere. The mysteries themselves are straightforward, and all the clues are there for the reader to solve. What is more of a riddle is the relationship between the two men. Is Mr Quin really some sort of supernatural being, or is he an extension of Mr Satterthwiate's own mind as it works through the problems? This is never really resolved, and I rather liked the fact that it was up to the reader to decide.
  6. Partners In Crime is a collection of short stories featuring Tommy and Tuppence. The stories cover jewel theft, counterfeiting gangs and international spies. It makes me sad to say this, but it is, quite frankly a dreadful book. The stories are simplistic, with wooden characters, made worse by the fact that they are very dated. Not one of the stories has a twist. There are no clever clues or skeletons in closets to uncover, it's a very poor effort all round. I'm glad I read it, it's a part of my Christie journey, but honestly, this one is a turkey.
  7. In The Seven Dials Mystery we return to Chimneys where Lord Caterham and his daughter, Lady Eileen "Bundle" are still on good form. Bundle is a game gal, and up for adventure, and Lord Caterham will do anything for a quiet life. Bundle becomes caught up in the mystery of Gerry Wade's death, a young man who dies in his sleep and is found with seven alarm clocks in his room. Superintendent Battle also returns to investigate the crime. Along with her friends, Bill, Jimmy and Loraine she tries to discover the mystery of the Seven Dials and bring Gerry's murderer to justice. The plot is simply daft, there's no getting away from it. Christie does not do international intrigue and global super villains very well. The guilty parties are blatantly obvious from the start, and the "bright young things" are as daft as brushes. So, as a mystery it's a rather lame, but it is worth reading to see the conversations between Bundle and her father which are sharp and witty. It's also worth taking note of one aspect of the "reveal" at the end, Christie will use the same plot mechanism in a later book, to much, much better effect.
  8. ISBN: 978-0007234387 Published By Harper Collins Originally Published In 1928 This is quite a long book for Christie, and was written during a period of her life when she was divorcing her first husband and I think some of the turmoil she was in comes through as many of the male characters are depicted as being deceitful cads. The two central characters are wealthy heiresses, Ruth is the daughter of an American millionaire, married to a cheating husband, the other, Katherine, inherits her wealth on the death of an elderly friend she has looked after for many years. Ruth decides to divorce her husband which would leave him ruined as she is the one with the money. She takes a trip on the luxurious Blue Train to Nice. Unfortunately someone murders her at Lyon and steals the jewels she was carrying with her. Coincidentally Katherine is also on the Blue Train and speaks to Ruth before her death. Once the murder is discovered, Poirot, who is also on the train, is drawn in to investigate. Christie is still playing with the ideas of international crime in this book and the characters include dealers in stolen jewellery, big business and of course the wealthy upper classes. The central mystery of who killed Ruth Aldin is quite complex and I think it would generally be quite hard to work out who the murderer was, although it is a satisfying twist. However, there are some very interesting echoes of books to come. The most obvious is of course that this seems to be a trial run for Murder On The Orient Express. Many of the ideas from that book can be seen a more primitive way here. Also, Katherine is from St Mary Mead, the village which will eventually become Miss Marple's home. Katherine returns there after the murderer is caught to look after another old lady, who has an eye for understanding human behaviour. Perhaps this was the very start of Miss Marple...
  9. My Christie Challenge continues, this time with The Big Four... ISBN: 0007234511 This Edition published 2006 Poirot is back, and this time he has Captain Hastings alongside him. In this novel, Christie plunges her heroes into the world of organized crime. Sadly, not very successfully. Poirot and Hastings find themselves hunted by "The Big Four". The Big Four are four powerful individuals from around the globe who have plans for world domination. Their trail of murder awakens Poirot's interest and he and Hastings set about trying to uncover their identities and stop their dastardly plan. The villains in this book feel as though they have fallen out of a very bad 1970s spy story, and I kept expecting them to shout "Bwah ha ha!" every couple of pages. Poirot and Hastings are captured more than once and are in mortal peril, only to escape in the most ludicrous ways. The whole thing felt very far away from the Christie I know and love, and it is fortuitous that this was not the first book of hers that I read, I may never have carried on! Give this one a miss.
  10. ISBN: 0007265182 Published By Harper Collins This facsimile edition published Nov 2007 We leave Poirot and Hastings for a while, and we meet Anne Beddingfield. Anne grew up in a small village, looking after her father. She longs to find out what is out there in the world, and dreams of adventure. Then her father dies, leaving her alone in the world. She witnesses an accident on the tube when a man steps backwards onto the rails. She finds the whole incident very curious and decides to investigate. A trail of information leads here to Southampton and onto a ship destined for South Africa. On board are a range of dodgy types, any of whom could be up to no good. In South Africa she finds that she is mixed up in organized crime. Anne is what could be termed as a "plucky young gal" and she has quite an adventure! The plot moves along at rapid pace, and there really is never a dull moment. The usual Christie red herrings are back with real style, and one characters actions in particular must have been quite shocking at the time of writing. Apart from the traditional murder which no Christie would be complete without, we have theft and blackmail, not to mention political unrest all set in against the wonderful landscape of South Africa. This book is much more of a thriller than a whodunnit, but it no less enjoyable for that. In fact, this has to be my favourite Christie to date, which is surprising given that it isn't a english country house murder. I read most of this on the train to and from work, and several times I was so wrapped up in international intrigue that I nearly missed my stop. That has to be a sign of a good book!
  11. ISBN: 978-0007234370 Published by Harper Collins This edition published 2006 I have been putting off reading this one. I think because I already knew who the murderer was. Once I got going though, that didn't seem to matter, in fact I enjoyed spotting where Christie had woven in her clues to the puzzle. Poirot has retired to a small village to grow marrows, which seems rather unlikely, but we'll let that go. He rents a cottage next to the home of Dr Sheppard and his sister Caroline. Caroline is an active village gossip and is convinced that another villager, Mrs Ferrars, had poisoned her aggressive husband who died the previous year. Dr Sheppard dismisses this as nonsense, until Roger Ackroyd who, if the village gossip is to be believed was going to marry Mrs Ferrars, is found stabbed to death in his study. And so the hunt is on, Poirot is recruited by Flora Ackroyd, Roger's niece, to help the police clear the name of the her fiancee and prime suspect Ralph Paton, who has gone on the run. There is the usual country house cast each of whom has something to hide, including a very odd butler and retired Major (every good murder mystery should have one!). Poirot of course unravels everyone's secrets including blackmail and heavy debts. The twist at the end is beautifully done, and at the time caused somewhat of a stir. The mystery itself is very satisfying, however what Christie captures so well in this book is gossip, and how small groups of people interact together. There is a wonderful scene where some of the characters are discussing the crime over a game of mah jong where sentences are left unfinished and knowing looks exchanged. The development of Poirot as a character moves a little further along in this book. He comments a couple of times that he misses his friend. It would seem Poirot does have a heart after all.
  12. ISBN: 0007265212 This Edition Published November 2007 Published By: Harper Collins Now, where to start? The plot of this book is so complicated, I think Christie must have been working through the A-Z of crimes and making sure each and every one was included! The story revolves around Chimneys which is a country house where powerful political deals are done. In this case, the restoration of the monarchy to a Balkan state. There are secret coded letters, a hidden passage, stolen jewels as well as a couple of murders. There are some quite strong stereotypes, which don't sit that comfortably, however, they do reflect the attitudes in the 1920s. The characters are not her best, although Lord Caterham who owns Chimneys has some wonderful lines, including voicing a wish that one of his house guests be found murdered face down in the duck pond. This is really Christie trying to find her feet, and you can see glimpses of her country house murder style starting to really develop. It's worth a read, but I think it is really a transitional book, as she prepares for one of her greatest works, which comes next. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  13. My Agatha Christie Challenge continues with book number 3 and we are back on familiar territory here, with Poirot and Hastings teaming up once again to solve a murder. The two friends receive a letter from Paul Reynaud a wealthy businessman living in France. By the time Poirot and Hastings reach the Reynaud's villa, Paul Reynaud has been murdered, stabbed in the back and his body left on a local golf course. There are the usual range of suspects including, Mrs Reynauld, the next door neighbour and her daughter and a son who stands to inherit a huge fortune. The local police are called in and Poirot meets an investigator who is as arrogant as he is. The exchanges between the two detectives are very funny as both recognises each other's faults, but cannot see those same faults in themselves, although towards the end, the rivalry becomes quite vicious and Poirot shows that he has a very unpleasant streak in him. As with all Christie novels, the clues are there, but in this story they are thrust into the readers face with none of the sleight of hand I am used to. What was more irritating is that I don't think it is possible to put the clues together to get some idea of what might be going on until quite late into the book. Although Christie's plots are highly improbable, I do always feel that I could have solved it myself had I been alert enough to pick up all the subtle clues. This book feel less well crafted that the previous two, there are far too many characters on the French investigation team, although this may reflect the reality of French Law Enforcement at the time. The problem with having so many detectives and magistrates is that it becomes hard to remember who has seen what. There is also a ridiculous subplot of Hastings falling in love, which is poorly written and made me cringe. As a great Christie fan, I am sad to say that this story is not on of her best, and you would be better reading one of her other books.
  14. My Agatha Christie Challenge had stalled early on due to work. Why does work get on the way of my reading time? Anyway, here is my review of her second book, The Secret Adversary. You can also find it on my blog. Review I started this book in a slightly worried frame of mind. This is the first Tommy and Tuppence adventure, and having seen a very dodgy TV adaptation, I have steered clear of the books. The story starts on the Lusitania, where a package of papers is handed to Jane Finn, an American on her way to Paris to support the war effort. She is given instructions to deliver the papers to the authorities on London. The narrative then switches to London where Tommy & Tuppence, friends since childhood, meet and are discussing the difficulties of finding work now the war is over. They decide to form the Young Adventurers, offering detective services and quickly become involved in the hunt for Jane Finn, who is now missing along with the package. The prologue, laying out how Jane Finn came to be in possession of the papers was a great piece of writing. The horror of the ship listing and slowly sinking was very vivid. Then I came to the chapter introducing Tommy and Tuppence, which felt like a bad cartoon. It was littered with "I say old bean" and other sayings, which although popular at the time, now feel like they have come from a bad imitation of a Wodehouse story. Despite this, I pressed on, and I was so glad that I did. That one rogue and slightly forced chapter gave way to a sinister plot to lead a coup against the British government, headed up by the mysterious and dangerous Mr Brown The slightly dated feel of the early chapters is soon forgotten as Tommy overhears a group of terrorists from different organisations supporting each other in a bid to destabilise the country. The parallels to our own unstable world community were not lost on me, and made me wonder whether anything really changes. The rest of the book races by as Tommy and Tuppence hunt down Jane Finn and the papers, whilst trying to understand how Mr Brown is always one step ahead. I did enjoy this book, but I felt slight short changed since it wasn't a classic whodunnit, and thats what I expect when I sit down with a Christie.
  15. I guess someone had to post the first review of Agatha Christie... This was my first Miss Marple novel, and what a dreadful old witch she is. She's staying at Bertram's Hotel in Mayfair and it's where you'll find all manner of intrigue, all wrapped up in upper-class sentiments and what could be the author's own prejudices. I might go back to Poirrot but I can't see me reading another Miss Marple book. I can't get over how snobbishly pretentious she is. I know Christie created many characters and I hope Miss Marple is just a skilfully created character and not a reflection of the author's own feelings.
  16. I have decided to read all the Agatha Christie books in order... it could take me a while! I won't read them back to back though. I have started with the Mysterious Affair At Styles, that being the first one and all! I have put a review on my blog. It is the first Poirot novel, and what shocked me was how horrible he was to Hastings. He really was mean. I have only really read later Poirots, and I think he must have mellowed a bit over time!
  17. I read a lot of Christie's novels when I was much younger and there is no doubting her talent for weaving a twisty tale. Having not read her for a long time, and inspired by the recent Doctor Who episode, I picked up her Collected Short Stories to pull me out of my reading slump. This collection is full of classic thriller/mystery/crime shorts featuring the staples of this genre: the scheming wife, the widow, the newlywed, all the mysteries of ordinary life. And all of the tales come with the required "A-ha!" moments at the end. I would say that this is a collection to be dipped into rather than read straight through. The tales are so perfect in their execution and structure that it becomes a little tedious and uninvolving to read them straight through. I did that and spoiled my reading experience. Read one at a time though and you can't help but smile with satisfaction at Christie's talent.
  18. This is a fascinating look at the life of Agatha Christie, focussing mainly on the event that propelled her into the limelight - the 11 days in 1926 she was missing from her home. Due to the unusual circumstances of her disappearance a wide scale police search was instigated and the Press became obssessed with finding out what happened to her. She was finally discovered living under an assumed name in a hotel in Harrogate. The family closed ranks after they found her and claimed she had been suffering from amnesia. The real motivations remained a mystery until this book was published. With the assistance of Agatha Christie's family and friends and impeccable research the author of this book reveals exactly what happened during the eleven days and why she decided to disappear. It is very interesting, although the writing style is rather like a report - event after event is described with dates and times and precision. I have probably been spoiled by biographies that read like novels - written from one perspective which gives the illusion of being close to the subject. However this is a small point and I did thoroughly enjoy reading this book. Has anyone else read it and what did you think?
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